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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

William Dunlop pleads guilty in first double jeopardy case

11/09/2006

The first man to face a retrial under the double jeopardy rule after his case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, QC, has pleaded guilty today to the murder of Julie Hogg in 1989.

The case against William Dunlop was referred to the DPP by the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Cleveland, Martin Goldman, when the double jeopardy law - that a person once acquitted cannot be tried twice for the same offence - was changed by the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Mr Goldman said: "William Dunlop has tried to escape responsibility for the murder of Julie Hogg for nearly 20 years and has put her family through great suffering in the process. Today we have finally seen him accept that he and he alone was responsible for killing Julie and hiding her body behind a bath panel, where it was discovered by her mother."

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, who met Julie Hogg's mother, Mrs Ann Ming, said: "The Criminal Justice Act of 2003 brought about a significant and welcome change in our criminal justice system, by giving the Court of Appeal the power to quash an acquittal and order a retrial for a serious offence when there is new and compelling evidence relevant to the guilt of the acquitted person.

"It is in the interests of justice, and of the public, for such retrials to take place. As this verdict shows, if acquitted of a serious crime, offenders will no longer be able to escape responsibility for their act should new and compelling evidence come to light. At last there is justice for Julie. And for her family, especially Ann, who fought so hard for this day, even coming to Parliament to tell me why we had to change the law. She was right."

Mrs Ming's campaign to change the law was praised by Mr Goldman who said: "None of us can imagine what that must have been like for Mrs Ming, or what Mr and Mrs Ming have gone through in the years since Julie's death, but I have every admiration for the dignified way they have fought for justice and campaigned to change the law.

"This is an exceptional case and shows that defendants cannot expect to "get away with it" if new and compelling evidence comes to light. But it does not mean that someone will be retried just because a verdict is unpopular - the strong new evidence has to be there, as it was in this case"

The change in the double jeopardy law came into force in April 2005. Once the law on double jeopardy changed, Cleveland Police and Cleveland Crown Prosecution Service re-examined the case and Mr Goldman decided the DPP should be asked for his consent for the case to go before the Court of Appeal.

For the DPP to give his consent, certain conditions had to be met, including that there was new and compelling evidence and that it was in the public interest. After looking at submissions, the DPP gave his consent and the case went before the Court of Appeal.

Under the Criminal Justice Act, the Court of Appeal has the power to quash an acquittal and order a re-trial where there is new and compelling evidence relevant to the guilt of the acquitted person and it is in the interests of justice to do so.

Having considered arguments in the case of William Dunlop, the Court of Appeal gave its consent on 17 May 2006, for him to be retried for the murder of Julie Hogg.

  1. Julie Hogg was killed in Billingham, Cleveland on 16 November 1989. William Dunlop faced two trials for murder and each time the jury failed to reach a verdict. He was formally acquitted in October 1991 at Newcastle Crown Court.
  2. On 14 April 2000, William Dunlop pleaded guilty to two charges of perjury arising out of the evidence he gave at the murder trials. He was sentenced to six years' imprisonment to run concurrently on each perjury charge. This sentence was consecutive to one of seven years he was already serving for assault, which was imposed in 1998, making a total of 13 years.
  3. The provisions on the retrial of serious offences (double jeopardy) under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 came into force on April 4, 2005.
  4. For further information contact CPS press office on 020 7796 8180.