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For three centuries the criminal law has given rise to a divergent set of approaches to the crime of homicide. Whereas the law of murder has not fundamentally changed, the crime of manslaughter has resulted in some forms of homicide being visited with relatively minor penalties. These various categories of homicide present considerable problems relating to intention, or lack of it, and the culpability of those whose behaviour, while lacking in evident malice, is characterised by the grossest recklessness. The reaction of the relatives of victims is simpler; they frequently find it impossible to distinguish between the moral culpability of a drunken or disqualified driver who kills and that of an offender who is convicted of a murder resulting from a drunken brawl.
This book addresses the powerful and controversial arguments for the current distinctions between murder, manslaughter and other specific categories of crime to be abolished and subsumed within a single crime of culpable homicide. In the course of this analysis the book considers two issues of great contemporary importance: the phenomenon of corporate homicide, and the special problem which arises of establishing criminal intent and individual responsibility; and the question of the special defences available to those charged with unlawful killing - particularly self-defence and provocation, where popular notions of what is reasonable are at variance with legal precedent. While this book aims to consider criminal homicide in its social, historical and legal setting, it also goes far beyond in setting out the case for fundamental reform.