Homicide Act 1957

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
Citation1957 c. 11


Homicide Act, 1957

(5 & 6 Eliz. 2) 11

An Act to make for England and Wales (and for courts-martial wherever sitting) amendments of the law relating to homicide and the trial and punishment of murder, and for Scotland amendments of the law relating to the trial and punishment of murder and attempts to murder.

Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

I Amendments of law of England and Wales as to fact of murder

Part I

Amendments of law of England and Walesas to fact of murder

S-1 Abolition of ‘constructive malice’.

1 Abolition of ‘constructive malice’.

(1) Where a person kills another in the course or furtherance of some other offence, the killing shall not amount to murder unless done with the same malice aforethought (express or implied) as is required for a killing to amount to murder when not done in the course or furtherance of another offence.

(2) For the purposes of the foregoing subsection, a killing done in the course or for the purpose of resisting an officer of justice, or of resisting or avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest, or of effecting or assisting an escape or rescue from legal custody, shall be treated as a killing in the course or furtherance of an offence.

S-2 Persons suffering from diminished responsibility.

2 Persons suffering from diminished responsibility.

(1) Where a person kills or is a party to the killing of another, he shall not be convicted of murder if he was suffering from such abnormality of mind (whether arising from a condition of arrested or retarded development of mind or any inherent causes or induced by disease or injury) as substantially impaired his mental responsibility for his acts and omissions in doing or being a party to the killing.

(2) On a charge of murder, it shall be for the defence to prove that the person charged is by virtue of this section not liable to be convicted of murder.

(3) A person who but for this section would be liable, whether as principal or as accessory, to be convicted of murder shall be liable instead to be convicted of manslaughter.

(4) The fact that one party to a killing is by virtue of this section not liable to be convicted of murder shall not affect the question whether the killing amounted to murder in the case of any other party to it.

S-3 Provocation.

3 Provocation.

Where on a charge of murder there is evidence on which the jury can find that the person charged was provoked (whether by things done or by things said or by both together) to lose his self-control, the question whether the provocation was enough to make a reasonable man do as he did shall be left to be determined by the jury; and in determining that question the jury shall take into account everything both done and said according to the effect which, in their opinion, it would have on a reasonable man.

S-4 Suicide pacts.

4 Suicide pacts.

(1) It shall be manslaughter, and shall not be murder, for a person acting in pursuance of a suicide pact between him and another to kill the other or be a party to the other killing himself or being killed by a third person.

(2) Where it is shown that a person charged with the murder of another killed the other or was a party to his killing himself or being killed, it shall be for the defence to prove that the person charged was acting in pursuance of a suicide pact between him and the other.

(3) For the purposes of this section ‘suicide pact’ means a common agreement between two or more persons having for its object the death of all of them, whether or not each is to take his own life, but nothing done by a person who enters into a suicide pact shall be treated as done by him in pursuance of the pact unless it is done while he has the settled intention of dying in pursuance of the pact.

II Liability to death penalty

Part II

Liability to death penalty

S-5 Death penalty for certain murders.

5 Death penalty for certain murders.

(1) Subject to subsection (2) of this section, the following murders shall be capital murders, that is to say,—

(a ) any murder done in the course or furtherance of theft;

(b ) any murder by shooting or by causing an explosion;

(c ) any murder done in the course or for the purpose of resisting or avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest, or of effecting or assisting an escape or rescue from legal custody;

(d ) any murder of a police officer acting in the execution of his duty or of a person assisting a police officer so acting;

(e ) in the case of a person who was a prisoner at the time when he did or was a party to the murder, any murder of a prison officer acting in the execution of his duty or of a person assisting a prison officer so acting.

(2) If, in the case of any murder falling within the foregoing subsection, two or more persons are guilty of the murder, it shall be capital murder in the case of any of them who by his own act caused the death of, or inflicted or attempted to inflict grievous bodily harm on, the person murdered, or who himself used force on that person in the course or furtherance of an attack on him; but the murder shall not be capital murder in the case of any other of the persons guilty of it.

(3) Where it is alleged that a person accused of murder is guilty of capital murder, the offence shall be charged as capital murder in the indictment, and if a person charged with capital murder is convicted thereof, he shall be liable to the same punishment for the murder as heretofore.

(4) In this Act ‘capital murder’ means capital murder within subsections (1) and (2) of this section.

(5) In this section—

(a ) ‘police officer’ means a constable who is a member of a police force or a special constable appointed under any Act of Parliament, and ‘police force’ has the same meaning as in section thirty of the Police Pensions Act, 1921 (as amended by the Police Act, 1946) or, as regards Scotland, the same meaning as in section forty of the Police (Scotland) Act, 1956;

(b ) ‘prison’ means any institution for which rules may be made under the Prison Act, 1952, or the Prisons (Scotland) Act, 1952, and any establishment under the control of the Admiralty or the Secretary of State where persons may be required to serve sentences of imprisonment or detention passed under the Naval Discipline Act, the Army Act, 1955, or the Air Force Act, 1955;

(c ) ‘prison officer’ includes any member of the staff of a prison;

(d ) ‘prisoner’ means a person who is undergoing imprisonment or detention in a prison, whether under Sentence or not, or who, while liable to imprisonment or detention in a prison, is unlawfully at large;

(e ) ‘theft’ includes any offence which involves stealing or is done with intent to steal.

S-6 Death penalty for repeated murders.

6 Death penalty for repeated murders.

(1) A person convicted of murder shall be liable to the same punishment as heretofore, if before conviction of that murder he has, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, been convicted of another murder done on a different occasion (both murders having been done in Great Britain).

(2) Where a person is charged with the murder of two or more persons, no rule of practice shall prevent the murders being charged in the same indictment or (unless separate trials are desirable in the interests of justice) prevent them being tried together; and where a person is convicted of two murders tried together (but done on different occasions), subsection (1) of this section shall apply as if one conviction had preceded the other.

S-7 Abolition of death penalty for other murders.

7 Abolition of death penalty for other murders.

No person shall be liable to suffer death for murder in any case not falling within section five or six of this Act.

S-8 Courts-martial.

8 Courts-martial.

(1) The foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act shall not have effect in relation to courts-martial, but a person convicted by a court-martial of murder (or of an offence corresponding thereto under section seventy of the Army Act, 1955, or of the Air Force Act, 1955) shall not be liable to suffer death, unless he is charged with and convicted of committing the offence under circumstances which, if he had committed it in England, would make him guilty of capital murder.

(2) An accused so charged before a court-martial under the Naval Discipline Act may, on failure of proof of the offence having been committed under such circumstances as aforesaid, be found guilty of the murder as not having been committed under such circumstances.

S-9 Punishment for murders not punishable with death, and other consequential provisions.

9 Punishment for murders not punishable with death, and other consequential provisions.

(1) Where a court (including a court-martial) is precluded by this Part of this Act from passing sentence of death, the sentence shall be one of imprisonment for life.

(2) Accordingly paragraph (a ) of subsection (3) of section seventy of the Army Act, 1955, and of the Air Force Act, 1955, and the first paragraph of...

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