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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

No retrial over inflatable artwork deaths


The Crown Prosecution Service has decided that it will not ask for a retrial of artist Maurice Agis on remaining charges of manslaughter following the deaths of two women who were killed when his inflatable artwork "Dreamspace" broke free from its moorings.

On 24 February a jury at Newcastle Crown Court found Mr Agis guilty of one offence under Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The jury failed to reach a verdict on two charges of gross negligence manslaughter contrary to common law, relating to Claire Furmedge and Anne Collings (also known as Elizabeth Anne Collings).

CPS reviewing lawyer David Scutt said: "We carefully examined the evidence that the jury had heard and decided that due to the manner in which certain crucial prosecution evidence came out at trial, there is no longer a realistic prospect of conviction in respect of those charges.

"We have offered to meet with the families of Anne Collings and Claire Furmedge and we continue to extend our sympathy for their loss."

Mr Agis is due to be sentenced on the 26 of March 2009, at Newcastle Crown Court in respect of the HSE offence as well as Chester-le-Steet District Council and Brouhaha International Ltd.


  1. Media enquiries by email :CPS Press Office or by phone: 020 7710 6088, Out of hours pager: 07699 781926.
  2. Chester-le-Street District Council, who helped stage the event, and Brouhaha International Ltd who supplied the workforce to maintain and put up the "Dreamspace" structure had earlier pleaded guilty to Health and Safety breaches.
  3. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
    • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
    • Preparing cases for court
    • Presenting cases at court
  4. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition there are four specialised national divisions: Organised Crime, Special Crime, Counter-Terrorism and the Fraud Prosecution Service. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,400 people and prosecuted 1,091,250 cases with an overall conviction rate of 85.1% in 2007-2008. Further information can be found on our website.

    More about the CPS

  5. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.

    Publicity and the Criminal Justice System protocol