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Manslaughter - Suicide Pact

Date Produced: January 2012
Title: Homicide
Offence: Manslaughter - Suicide Pact
Legislation: Homicide Act 1957 1861 section 4
Mode of Trial: Indictable only
Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty:  Life imprisonment
Sentencing Range: Serious specified violent offence. Schedule 15A CJA 2003 applies

Aggravating & Mitigating Factors:

  • More than one death
  • Features of the offence, such as horrific manner of death or mercy killing

Relevant Sentencing Guidelines (If Any):

Neither SGC definitive guideline nor guideline case covering this offence.

Relevant Sentencing Case Law:

R. v Sweeney (1986) 8 Cr. App. R.(S.) 419
The appellant pleaded guilty to manslaughter of his wife. He was prone to depression and his wife suffered from muscular dystrophy. They decided to commit suicide by setting fire to their car while they were inside it. They swallowed tablets, and he poured petrol and set light to it. They tried to escape from the car, but she was unable to do so and died. He suffered serious burns and was permanently scarred. The Court held that even desperate people must be deterred form taking life, and that those who contemplated suicide and did not achieve it in a suicide pact would be punished if the other party died. Sentence reduced two years imprisonment.

Archbold states that sentences of 2 or 3 years imprisonment have been upheld. 19-83.

Recent Decisions reported in CSP at B1-5.3B

(Aiding suicide cases are reported in CSP at B 1-5.3A)

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