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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

The Role of The Crown Prosecution Service

The Crown Prosecution Service is the government department responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.

As the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales, we are responsible for:

  • advising the police on cases for possible prosecution
  • reviewing cases submitted by the police
  • determining any charges in more serious or complex cases
  • preparing cases for court
  • presenting cases at court

Find out more about the role of the Crown Prosecution Service

CPS statement on Ryan Donovan


Nick Hawkins, Chief Crown Prosecutor of CPS Wessex, said:

"This was a shocking and unprecedented event where an Able Seaman shot dead an officer, wounded another and shot at two more of his colleagues in the presence not only of naval staff but also civilian visitors on board HMS Astute. A group of school children who had only just left after their visit were waiting on the jetty and heard the gunshots.

"By pleading guilty, Ryan Donovan has taken criminal responsibility for his actions and, with this conviction, the family of Lieutenant Commander Molyneux and the other victims and their families will not have to relive these painful moments throughout a trial.

"My thoughts are with Mrs Molyneux and her family for their sad loss, and also with Petty Officer Christopher Brown, Chief Petty Officer David McCoy and Lieutenant Commander Christopher Hodge, who also have to live with the memory of that day.

"Donovan was in possession of an SA80 rifle and 30 rounds of live ammunition in the course of his duties as a sentry. He used this gun to shoot firstly at Chief Petty Officer McCoy and Petty Officer Brown. Fortunately, he missed them both and they were unhurt. He then shot Lieutenant Commander Molyneux once in the head, who died as a result of the wound he received.

"He finally shot Lieutenant Commander Hodge once in the abdomen, causing him serious injuries. Donovan was wrestled to the ground by two civilians who acted heroically, without regard to their own safety, and he was restrained and disarmed. During the struggle a seventh bullet was discharged.

"We have worked very closely with Hampshire Constabulary and the Royal Navy on this investigation, producing a very strong case that resulted in Ryan Donovan pleading guilty and being sentenced just five months after this tragic event."