Petition Create a statutory offence of manslaughter by coercive or controlling behaviour

We want the Government to create a specific statutory offence of manslaughter by coercive or controlling behaviour. The legislation creating this offence should make it clear that it applies in cases where coercive or controlling behaviour cause someone to take their own life.

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Currently manslaughter is a common law offence. At present it does not appear to be common practice for a domestic abuser to be prosecuted for manslaughter when their victim takes their own life as a result of coercive or controlling behaviour; with many commentators arguing that this is due to evidential difficulties.

Creating a specific statutory offence of manslaughter by coercive or controlling behaviour would give the Government and Parliament an opportunity to clearly define this specific offence in statute, and we would hope this would lead to more people being prosecuted for manslaughter in appropriate cases.

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Government responded

This response was given on 18 January 2024

The Government has no plans to create a specific offence of manslaughter caused by controlling or coercive behaviour. Existing law can already cover such circumstances.

Read the response in full

This Government is committed to ending domestic abuse, and recognises the serious harm caused by controlling and coercive behaviour especially when that behaviour sadly results in the victim taking their own life.

The Government does not believe it is necessary to create a specific offence of manslaughter caused by coercive or controlling behaviour.

The common law offence of manslaughter can already cover circumstances where death results from controlling or coercive behaviour or any other unlawful act.

Further, a person who intentionally encourages or assists another person to take their own life, including through a course of conduct, may also commit an offence under section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961.

A central issue in relation to an allegation of manslaughter in the context of a person taking their own life is whether an unlawful act caused the death. In the context of coercive and controlling behaviour, the unlawful act could be the last instance of abuse – the so-called ‘final straw’ – or it could be a course of conduct involving numerous instances of unlawful abuse.

Proving a sufficient causal link between the unlawful abuse and the death is always likely to be challenging but the existing law is capable of covering manslaughter caused by an unlawful act or course of conduct and has been used successfully to prosecute such behaviour. Creating a specific offence of manslaughter by coercive or controlling behaviour would not overcome the evidential difficulties. As with any criminal offence, whether a prosecution can be brought will depend on the circumstances of individual cases and the available evidence.

More generally, the Government is committed to raising awareness of domestic abuse. Our national communications campaign ‘Enough’ was launched in 2022, to challenge the harmful behaviours that exist within wider society. Campaign advertising has reached millions of individuals across England and Wales, and thousands of clicks on the website through to organisations that support victims of these crimes.

Ministry of Justice

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