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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

Man to be charged with gross negligence manslaughter over deaths at 'The Old Maltings' building site


Gaon Hart, a Senior Crown Advocate in the Special Crime Division for the CPS, said: "The CPS carefully reviewed all of the evidence gathered by Suffolk Police during their investigation into the tragic deaths of Matthew Skeet, 19, and Kevin Ruffles, 57, on 21 October 2010.

"Matthew and Kevin died whilst working on a building site at 'The Old Maltings' in Worlingworth, Suffolk, when a wall collapsed on top of them.

"It was concluded that there is sufficient evidence to charge Barry Potts, a Structural Engineer who was advising Matthew and Kevin on their work, with gross negligence manslaughter under the common law and with a health and safety offence.

"It is alleged that Mr Potts gave Matthew Skeet and Kevin Ruffles permission to dig a trench under part of the wall, which weakened the foundations and led the wall to collapse.

"The CPS has also concluded that there is sufficient evidence to charge Elliston Steady & Hawes (Building) Limited, the company who owned the site, 'The Old Maltings' in Worlingworth, Suffolk, with Health and Safety offences.

"This decision was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

"I extend my sincere sympathies to the families of Mr Skeet and Mr Ruffles."

Mr Potts and Elliston Steady & Hawes Limited have been summonsed to appear before Ipswich Magistrates' Court on 5 July 2013.


Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  2. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  3. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Division, Special Crime and Counter Terrorism, and Organised Crime. In 2011-2012, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department of Health (DoH) prosecution functions were transferred to the CPS. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  4. In 2010-2011 the CPS employed around 7,745 people and prosecuted 957,881 cases with 116,898 of these in the Crown Court, and the remaining 840,983 in the magistrates' courts. Of those we prosecuted, 93,106 defendants were convicted in the Crown Court and 727,491 in the magistrates' courts. In total 86% of cases prosecuted resulted in a conviction. Further information can be found on the CPS website.
  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. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.