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Prosecuting Homicide

Murder and manslaughter are two of the offences that constitute homicide.

Manslaughter can be committed in one of three ways:

  1. killing with the intent for murder but where there is provocation, diminished responsibility or a suicide pact.
  2. conduct that was grossly negligent given the risk of death, and resulted in death.
  3. conduct, taking the form of an unlawful act involving a danger of some harm, that caused death.

With some exceptions, the crime of murder is committed, where a person:

  • of sound mind and discretion (i.e. sane):
  • unlawfully kills (i.e. not self-defence or other justified killing)
  • any reasonable creature (human being)
  • in being (born alive and breathing through its own lungs)
  • under the Queen's Peace
  • with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.

There are other specific homicide offences, for example, infanticide, causing death by dangerous driving, and corporate manslaughter.

Find out more about prosecuting homicide

Nurse found guilty of killing his patients

03/03/2008

Colin Norris was today found guilty at Newcastle Crown Court of the murders of Ethel Hall, Doris Ludlam, Bridget Bourke and Irene Crookes. He was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Vera Wilby.

At the time he committed these offences in 2002, Norris was a nurse at Leeds General Infirmary and St James Hospital Leeds. The victims were his patients.

Commenting on the verdict, David Scutt, the CPS reviewing lawyer said:

"Colin Norris preyed on his patients at a time when they were at their most trusting and most vulnerable. Each was elderly and had undergone major surgery for hip fracture repair; each also had other serious underlying medical problems. His choice of insulin or anti-diabetic agents to poison them showed a degree of careful planning. Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to the victims and their families at this time."

The jury's verdict represents the culmination of more than five years of close work between the CPS Special Crime Division (SCD) and the murder investigation team of West Yorkshire Police. At the outset of the enquiry, a careful sifting process was undertaken in relation to a much larger number of deaths at the two hospitals.

With the assistance of medical experts, it was possible for the prosecution team to narrow down the scope of the investigation to those deaths which formed the subject of the charges. It was then necessary to establish the link between Colin Norris and the deaths.

The reviewing lawyer knew that Norris had been the nurse responsible for the victims' care at or around the time that each of the them was found in a hypoglacemic coma. However, in order to exclude the possibility that someone else could also have been present on each of the five occasions, the prosecution needed to establish the whereabouts of many other people working at the two hospitals. Working through a vast amount of information and documentation relating to the key shifts, the prosecution distilled that material into 300 lever arch files. Taken together, the evidence on this point provided a compelling link between Norris and the victims.

The prosecution also had to prove that the sudden and severe attacks of hypoglacemia suffered by each of the victims (none of whom was diabetic) were not due to natural causes or mistaken administration, but instead due to the malicious administration of insulin or anti-diabetic drugs. A particular challenge the prosecution faced was that each victim had longstanding medical problems that might otherwise account for their deaths. In addition, there had been no post mortems in relation to the majority of the deaths. CPS advised the police to gather evidence from a number of experts across a range of medical specialisms including neuropathology, toxicology, diabetes & endocrinology. The combined effect of their evidence was to establish that there had indeed been a malicious administration of insulin (or anti-diabetic drugs), and that there was a causal link between that administration and the victim's death.

  1. The evidence ran to 26 lever-arch volumes of statements, exhibits and interview transcripts, plus over 300 volumes of patient notes.
  2. The prosecution called 16 expert witnesses in fields such as pathology & neuropathology, pharmacology, toxicology, ortho-geriatrics, stroke, oncology, cardiology, diabetes & endocrinology, radiology & neuro-radiology and immuno-assay.
  3. Media enquiries to CPS Press Office on 020 7710 6088.