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Murder - defences - suicide pact

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Section 4 of the Homicide Act 1957

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


Suicide Pact

From Sec 4 it can be derived that Suicide Pacts are still unlawful, but survival by one party should be dealt with as manslaughter.

Suicide and attempted suicide are not crimes (since s.1 Suicide Act 1961), but it is a criminal offence to aid, abet, counsel, or procure the suicide of another. (Suicide Act 1961, s.2.)


A suicide pact occurs when two or more persons agree that they shall be killed by some means.


Survivors of such a pact are charged with manslaughter, whether they killed another or whether the dead person killed himself.

The party raising the defence has the legal burden of proof.



Two lovers decide to end their lives together.

B connects exhaust pipe of his car to the inside of the car.

G dies. B is rescued by passing motorist.

B had deliberately killed G, which would normally be murder.


Their settled expectation of dying together means he can claim suicide pact and be convicted of manslaughter.


Aiding suicide

A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures suicide or attempted suicide is guilty of an offence punishable with up to fourteen years.


In R v Sweeney (1986) CA it was stated that it is the policy of the law to make suicide pacts unlawful; those who enter into such pacts and survive when the other party thereto dies should expect to be punished.


"ex turpi causa non oritur actio"

No right of action arises from a shameful cause

The courts will not lend their aid to a litigant so as to enable him, his representative or beneficiary, to obtain a benefit from his own crime or reparation for the consequences of his own culpable criminal act.

This has effect for survivors of suicide pacts in claiming insurance and other funds, Dubar v Plant [1997].


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