For more than three centuries the criminal law has given rise to a divergent set of approaches to the crime of homicide. Whereas the law of murder has not conceptually changed, the crime of manslaughter has resulted in some forms of homicide being visited with relatively minor penalties. These various categories of unlawful killing present considerable problems relating to intention, or lack of it, and the culpability of those whose behaviour, while lacking in evident malice, is characterised by the grossest recklessness. The reaction of the relatives of victims is generally simpler. They frequently find it impossible to understand how those who kill by dangerous or drunken driving may receive comparatively lenient sentences, while those convicted of manslaughter following a drunken brawl may be dealt with more severely, and yet others, convicted of so-called 'mercy killings', are subject to the mandatory penalty of life imprisonment. This book addresses the powerful and controversial arguments for the current distinctions between murder, manslaughter and other specific categories of crime to be abolished and subsumed within a single crime of culpable homicide. In the course of this analysis the authors consider a number of issues of great contemporary importance, including the presentation of expert evidence in cases involving unexplained infant death, corporate killing, and the question of the defences available to the accused, including self-defence and provocation, where popular notions of what is reasonable or justifiable may be at variance with legal precedent. While this book aims to consider criminal homicide in its social, historical and legal setting, it also goes far beyond in setting out the case for radical reform.
The arguments in this book have been well made, with an intimate knowledge of the territory and an understanding of the positions and motivations of the opposing forces... Bron McKillop Current Issues in Criminal Justice, Vol. 17, No. 2 November 2005 ...a fascinating book that exposes the limitations of the current laws on homicide and makes a fascinating historical revelation that exposes the nature of contemporary public policy debate. Jamie Bennett Prison Service Journal January 2006 Once in a while one has the signal pleasure of coming across a truly remarkable book, a book that serves as a pathway to enlightened thought on a subject and which makes plain the sheer joy of scholarship. With Malice Aforethought A Study of the Crime and Punishment for Homicide is such a book the authors have infused their book not only with the estimable erudition but also with the passion of the advocate who believes fundamentally in the cause being advancedAn arresting and rich tableau of arguments. Gilles Renaud, Cornwall, ON Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice March 2005 This is an important book. Robert S Shiels Journal of the Law Society of Scotland April 2005