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Murder VS Manslaughter

What is the difference between murder and Manslaughter

You must have seen cases where someone ...

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Murder VS Manslaughter
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What is the difference between murder and Manslaughter

You must have seen cases where someone is convicted for murder and another for manslaughter but they both killed someone. You must have also noticed, that the punishment for these offences is also different. This is because according to the law, Murder is different from manslaughter simply because of intention.


What is murder?

Two businessmen, Deji and Ifeanyi got a business deal to supply goats to a politician. The politician made full payment and because Ifeanyi was the one who secured the deal, the payment was made into his account. Ifeanyi began to have afterthoughts about giving Deji his agreed percentage, so he lured him into a farm and killed him with a machete. This is murder. According to section 316 of the criminal code, the offence of murder is defined as follows;


“Except as hereinafter set forth, a person who unlawfully kills another under any of the following circumstances, that is to say;


  • If the offender intends to cause the death of the person killed or that of some other person.
  • If the offender intends to do to the person killed or to some other person some grievous harm.
  • If death is caused by means of an act done in the prosecution of an unlawful purpose, which act is of such a nature, as to be likely to endanger human life.
  • If the offender intends to do grievous harm to some person for the purposes of facilitating the commission of an offence, which is such that the offender may be arrested without a warrant or for the purpose of facilitating the flight of an offender who has committed or attempted to commit any such offence.
  • If death is caused by administering any stupefying or overpowering things for either of the purpose last aforesaid.
  • If death is caused by willfully stopping the breath of any person for either of such purpose, is guilty of murder.


According to the law, there are two types of murder; 


  • First-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder


First-degree murder

This is premeditated murder. You thought about it and made up your mind to do it. It’s usually between these two categories;


  • Intentional killing is like stalking someone before killing them.
  • Felony; an armed robbery situation where one of the thieves shoots the victim.


Second-degree murder

This is an unplanned but intentional killing; Two people are fighting and in the “heat of passion” you kill someone or you do something that totally disregards human life. You can be charged with either first-degree murder or second-degree murder. The case of Ifeanyi is a first-degree murder.


Punishment for Murder

According to section 319 of the criminal code, any person who commits the offence of murder shall be sentenced to death.


What is manslaughter?

In the case of R vs Doughty (1986), the accused was to take care of his baby as his wife had just had a Caesarean section and was too weak to assist. One night, his baby was crying profusely and he couldn’t seem to do anything about it. In an attempt to stop her from crying, he covered the baby’s mouth but covered it too hard and this resulted in the 17-day old baby’s death. This is manslaughter.


The unlawful killing of someone but without malice. Manslaughter can be;


  • Voluntary - This kind of murder is mostly committed during the heat of passion or in defence of yourself
  • Involuntary- the killing is unintentional and a result of recklessness. The case of R Vs Doughty was involuntary manslaughter.


Punishment for Manslaughter

In Nigeria, the punishment for manslaughter could be life imprisonment, but this is also most often left at the discretion of the judge. However, the base sentence for involuntary manslaughter under the federal sentencing guideline is 10 to 16 months prison sentence which can increase if the crime was conducted through a reckless act.


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