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As one of the UK’s best manslaughter barristers, Howard Godfrey QC has acted for defendants in the whole range of situations from which manslaughter charges can arise, including death by dangerous/careless driving, gross negligence (for example, a drunk pilot or failing hotel fire alarms), unlawful act manslaughter (for example, a punch to the jaw which leads to death).
Sometimes a manslaughter verdict is a lesser alternative in a murder case. But often people charged with pure manslaughter feel completely out of their depth because they have never been involved with the criminal law before. Often the first question to consider is: was the client really responsible for the person’s death?
These can be very complicated cases to properly defend. Sometimes the argument is that the client’s actions did not lead to the death. In other cases the issue is whether the client was reckless towards the victim, or whether he was in breach of a duty owed to the person who died.
In many of these cases expert scientific or medical evidence plays a great part, whether called by the prosecution, the defence, or (often) both. In this type of work it is essential to be able to understand these areas of expertise, and use them, where possible, to the client’s advantage.
Some Sample cases:
Death from Fight - No Case to Answer [ H ]
‘H’ 18 year old youth charged with murder and manslaughter on ‘joint enterprise’ basis after a fight between groups in a pub resulted in the death of one youth from head injuries caused mainly by being beaten with a billiard cue. Successful submission of ‘no case to answer’ at end of prosecution case because of unreliability of CCTV and eye witness evidence. Verdicts of Not Guilty to both Murder and Manslaughter directed by trial judge.
Corporate and Gross Negligence Manslaughter - No Case to Answer
Zeebrugge Ferry Disaster: The car ferry, the Herald of Free Enterprise, capsized in Zeebrugge Harbour after the loading doors had been left open. 193 passengers and crew died and many survivors became seriously ill with resulting post traumatic stress disorder. There followed a trial of the shipping company for corporate manslaughter and of some individuals for gross negligence manslaughter. The judge ruled that there was no case to answer against the company and the main individual defendants. The law has since been changed. There were also multiple claims for damages by survivors resulting in substantial awards.
Insurance Fraud Arson - Reduced From Murder to Manslaughter [ F ]
This was a fraudulent insurance claim that went wrong. A factory containing a large quantity of valuable goods that were insured was set ablaze in order to obtain an enormous insurance payout. It resulted in a trial for murder and arson, after occupiers died in the blaze. The defendant was acquitted of murder but convicted of unlawful act manslaughter.