22 Apr 2012

Homicide–misunderstood?

There is much to be said for the Guardian editorial of Thursday in that it was well written and did not descend into the acerbic in which I know Express editorial ink is blended. I truly think that the article of Winford James in the Express of the same day reflects my position.

The Guardian editorial writer, like most commentators, has not understood that “homicide” is a very neutral legal word that covers any number of unnatural killings provided an identifiable human has caused it directly or indirectly. A homicide may not result in criminal culpability. There is no charge of homicide known to the law.

And where there is at least one account which if true is capable of negating justification (self-defence), then the homicidal killing will result in the charge of murder being laid. Provocation that is unnegated will reduce the charge of murder to manslaughter. Also a person who drives a car recklessly, causing that car to kill a person, has caused a homicidal killing.

“Homicide” is a very neutral legal term that is used by law enforcement agencies to make a decision as to whether to investigate an act of killing to ascertain criminal culpability. A car that rolls down a hill may result in a homicidal killing if left without brakes engaged. It is the investigation that decides on whether there is criminal culpability, but once it is determined that that may be the case justification would be had for categorising the death as a possible homicide.

I am very disappointed in that part of the editorial that has given the expression as used by me a television meaning and not the legal meaning that one would expect of the Minister of Justice, a law minister. I believe that the Guardian editorial writer, like Martin Daly (a civil lawyer), did not take the time that Winford James did to research the legal meaning of homicide before writing so adversely of me.

Herbert Volney MP
Minister of Justice

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