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Unlawful killing verdicts and road traffic accidents

James Maxwell-Scott, instructed by Stephen Barnfield of Hill Dickinson LLP, represented the successful claimant in R (Wilkinson) v HM Coroner for the Greater Manchester South District [2012] EWHC 2755 (Admin).

At an inquest following a fatal road traffic accident, the jury returned a verdict of “unlawful killing” after being directed by the Coroner that they should return such a verdict if it was proved to the criminal standard that there was sufficient evidence for a conviction of causing death by careless driving.

The Administrative Court (Foskett J and HHJ Peter Thornton KC, the recently appointed Chief Coroner) quashed the jury’s verdict and substituted a verdict of “Accident”. They held that the verdict of unlawful killing is restricted to murder, manslaughter (including corporate manslaughter) and infanticide. The Court stated that none of the specific offences of causing death by driving can constitute unlawful killing; only driving that constitutes gross negligence manslaughter can result in an unlawful killing verdict.

The full text of the judgment is available here.

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