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R v Church [1965] 2 WLR 1220

Sylvia Notts mocked the appellant's ability to satisfy her sexually and slapped his face. A fight developed during which the appellant knocked her unconscious. He tried to wake her for 30 mins to no avail. He believed she was dead and threw her body into a river. Medical evidence revealed that the cause of death was drowning and she therefore had been alive when he threw her into the river. The trial judge made several errors in his direction to the jury and in the event they convicted of manslaughter rather than murder. The appellant appealed on the grounds of misdirection.


Whilst there were several errors in the judge's direction the conviction for manslaughter was safe.

Edmund Davies LJ set the applicable test for constructive manslaughter:

"The conclusion of this Court is that an unlawful act causing the death of another cannot, simply because it is an unlawful act, render a manslaughter verdict inevitable. For such a verdict inexorably to follow, the unlawful act must be such as all sober and reasonable people would inevitably recognise must subject the other person to, at least, the risk of some harm resulting therefrom, albeit not serious harm."
Back to lecture outline on constructive manslaughter