Culpable homicide

Culpable homicide

Culpable homicide is a specific offence in various jurisdictions which generally involves the unlawful killing of another with (in most relevant jurisdictions, but not all) an absence of an intention to kill. The term is also used in some other jurisdictions as an official description for the general group of offences involving the unlawful killing of a human being.

The offence as known in different jurisdictions

Culpable homicide offences are found in the following jurisdictions; the description of the local version of the offence is given where available :-


The term is part of the Criminal Code of Canada (sec 222), where all killings of persons are classified as culpable or not culpable homicide. In Canada there are three types of culpable homicide: murder, manslaughter and infanticide. Killings classified as not culpable are justifiable killings; thus the term is used to define the criminal intent or mens rea of a killing.


The offences include causing death whether by intention or not :-

Culpable Homicide is an offence under s.299 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), defined as :- "Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide."

Culpable Homicide not Amounting to Murder is an offence under s.304 of the Indian Penal Code. It applies to an event where the death is intentional but does not come within the IPC definition of Murder.


Culpable homicide is committed where the accused has caused loss of life through wrongful conduct, but where there was no intention to kill or 'wicked recklessness' . It is an offence under Common Law and is roughly equivalent to the offence of manslaughter in English law.

While the offence charged remains the same there can be a great variation between individual cases including whether or not the act was voluntary or involuntary :- Voluntary culpable homicide is homicide where the mens rea for murder is present but mitigating circumstances reduce the crime to culpable homicide. Involuntary culpable homicide is homicide where the mens rea for murder is not present but either the independent mens rea for culpable homicide is present, or the circumstances in which death was caused make it culpable homicide. Involuntary culpable homicide may arise in the context of an unlawful act or a lawful act. The mens rea requirement is different in each case.

The offence has previously been applied to individual defendants but following the collapse of a trial brought against Transco following the deaths of 4 people in a gas explosion in Larkhall in 1999 and other fatal events involving corporate bodies the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 has introduced a new statutary offence of corporate homicide into Scots Law.

South Africa

Culpable Homicide has been defined simply as "the unlawful negligent killing of a human being".


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