Today is a bit of an odd day, as I only had one lecture and as my tutorial was cancelled. So, I shall have very little to type about this time around.
We are continuing our exploration of types of homicide, with a focus on unlawful acts of manslaughter and gross negligence manslaughter. I’m not going to go into the different tests for both and what main differences are (I hope that you can spot that in the name). Instead, I will talk about an idea concerning if acts are legal or illegal.
In the case of gross negligence manslaughter, it is up to the jury to determine if the act was grossly negligent. However, if you do not know [and cannot know] if your act is illegal at the time, is it fair to punish a person if they cannot be aware that what they are doing is punishable? My first instinct is no, of course of not. That would be retroactively creating punishments. Surely, there would be a mercy rule, where the first person would get a pass and onwards people would get punished for doing the same act (as we know it is illegal now). Then you start to think about it. And now you think differently ( I do at least). It’s how the common law system works. Rather than planning for every conceivable scenario, deal with them as they arise. Allows the legislator to be free and then gives responsibilities to the courts to sort this out (and if they disagree, they can legislate).
Let’s take a step back. When do things become illegal? When the courts decide? From the beginning of time? As far back as one is able to litigate (depending on limitations) and if so, can I prosecute on a deceased person’s behalf? Some arbitrary date? Admittedly, I don’t have an answer to this question (nor need to in the immediate future). However, I’m leaning towards the beginning of time. You can look at something and just ask, anyone with respect for another person would know is wrong. Sometimes, an apology won’t do.