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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

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New agreement to promote effective working in inquest cases


A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed by the Crown Prosecution Service, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Chief Coroner and the Coroners' Society to establish best practice in the handling of cases where it is suspected that a serious criminal offence may have caused the death of an individual.

The agreement, which is available publically, was signed on 24 June 2013, sets out the way the CPS, police and coroners communicate and work together where there is suspicion that a serious offence has led to a death and a corresponding inquest.

The CPS has also published complementary legal guidance specifically for prosecutors, providing operational advice on how to implement the principles of the MoU.

Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: "The CPS, police and coroners all want to provide the best service to those who are sadly affected by a suspicious death. This is why we have produced and signed up to the MoU - to ensure we are working together as efficiently as possible as soon as possible, to improve information-sharing and prevent unnecessary delays.

"The MoU clearly sets out key roles and responsibilities, including timely and consistent communication with each other and, importantly, to bereaved families, to ensure they are provided with a consistently high service from all agencies."

The new CPS legal guidance complements the CPS bereaved families policy and reinforces the principles of the MoU for prosecutors, to ensure they are put into practice. As well as providing additional detail on the role and responsibilities of the coroner, it prompts prosecutors to ensure they communicate their key decisions quickly and clearly, in accordance with the MoU.

Some key undertakings included in the MOU are:

  • Police should consult with the CPS as early as possible in cases involving a death where a crime may have been committed.
  • Unless otherwise agreed, full inquests should take place after the outcome of criminal proceedings, and the verdict/determination of the inquest will not be inconsistent with the findings in criminal proceedings. Where a Coroner decides not to agree to a requested adjournment, reasons will be given in writing.
  • If an inquest hears new evidence which may indicate that a criminal offence may have been committed, the inquest will be adjourned and the evidence supplied to the police and CPS. This will be done by the Coroner having taken into account the reasoning of any previous decision not to prosecute by the CPS. The police will decide if further investigation is warranted.
  • In the event of an unlawful killing verdict the officer in the case or the Coroner will notify the CPS. The CPS will then consider if any new evidence or information has the capability to change any previous decision not to bring charges. Should the matter not have been previously referred to the CPS, the investigating police force will decide if further investigation is warranted.
  • Where appropriate, the CPS should make early contact with the Coroner in order to discuss relevant issues including timescales of potential criminal proceedings; the selection of experts; and disclosure of materials. Decision making will also be communicated to the coroner in the normal way.
  • Where appropriate, the CPS should also make contact with the bereaved family to explain procedures and decisions made.

The signing of the MoU follows successful pilot trials of its key principles.

The Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC said: "I welcome the publication of this joint Memorandum of Understanding. It will bring greater co-operation between coroners, police and prosecutors in the investigation of violent and suspicious deaths. This in turn will serve the public and bereaved families by a more timely, more considered conclusion of inquests."


Notes to Editors

  1. The MoU is available to view on the CPS website and will be reviewed every two years
  2. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  3. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.