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Murder & Manslaughter

Murder and manslaughter are two of the most serious criminal offences, with the potential for a sentence of up to life imprisonment on conviction. Getting legal representation from a criminal defence team with specialist experience in these types of charges is therefore essential if you find yourself charged with such an offence.


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Being arrested is always likely to be confusing and scary, but when it involves such serious charges, it is normal to feel lost and alone. At JD Spicer Zeb, our criminal defence solicitors have more than 45 years of experience with murder and manslaughter cases, so can provide immediate reassurance that your case is in safe hands.

We can be by your side through every stage of investigation and any resulting prosecution, making sure you understand the charges and evidence against you and your legal options. We can also offer sympathetic personal support to help you get through this difficult time.

Our team is highly experienced in finding flaws in the cases against our clients, meaning we are often able to see charges dropped before they reach court, as well as having a strong track record of securing not guilty verdicts in court. Where a conviction cannot be avoided, we will always offer realistic guidance and robust representation to minimise the criminal penalties.

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Why choose JD Spicer Zeb?

  • 1000's of Cases Dropped
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  • 100's of Years Combined Experience
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Recent Cases

There is limited recourse for you if you are falsely accused. Click a selection of the cases we have covered. The best thing you can do is to instruct an excellent solicitor from the outset.

Read more cases

Our murder and manslaughter solicitors provide:

  • 24/7 legal support in person and over the phone, 365 days a year
  • Representation anywhere in England or Wales
  • Accredited Police Station Representatives to support you during a police interview
  • Clear, effective legal advice in any language (see our languages spoken)

Speak to our murder and manslaughter solicitors today

For a free initial consultation on your legal position and the available options, contact our local offices in LondonBirmingham or Manchester.

For urgent advice at any time of day or night regarding a murder or manslaughter charge, please call our Emergency Number 07836 577 556.

Our expertise with murder and manslaughter charges

We offer over 45 years of experience representing people accused of the most serious criminal offences, including murder and manslaughter. Our criminal defence team have a detailed understanding of how these offences work, so can make sure you defence is conducted effectively from the very first stage of proceedings.

From your first contact with police, we will be there by your side, making sure you understand the case against you and your defence options. We can also advise you before the point of police interview or arrest if you have concerns.

Our team is highly skilled in dealing with the various types of evidence relied on for these types of serious criminal cases, including forensics such as fingerprint and DNA analysis, digital evidence such as mobile phone records and text messages, and witness testimony. As a result, we can work effectively to identify any potential flaws in the case against you and make sure any evidence needed to support your defence is brought to light.

With strong advocacy experience and working relationships with some of the UK’s leading criminal defence barristers specialising in murder and manslaughter prosecutions, we will always be able to offer you the very best representation if your case goes to trial.

Our expertise in handling criminal law matters, including those related to murder and manslaughter, is reflected through our Law Society accreditation for Criminal Litigation. We also hold the Lexcel accreditation for the consistently high standards of our legal practice.

What to do if you are arrested for murder or manslaughter

If you are arrested on suspicion of murder or manslaughter, remembering your legal rights can help you to avoid unintentionally saying or doing anything that could undermine your defence.

The four key points to keep in mind following an arrest are:

  1. You do not have to answer any questions asked by the police. Whether to do so or not requires a thorough understanding of your case and how the criminal justice system works. Legal advice should be taken before saying anything.
  2. You should never answer any police questions without a solicitor present.
  3. You have the right to free legal representation.
  4. You can use the duty solicitor available or choose your own lawyer.

When making an arrest, officers are required to tell you the specific offence or offences you are accused of committing. They must also caution you with the words:

“You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

After a police interview in connection to a suspected offence of murder or manslaughter, the potential outcomes include:

  • Release with no further action
  • Release under investigation
  • Detention in custody
  • Charging with a specific offence

If you are charged with murder or manslaughter:

  • A hearing date will be set
  • You will either be:
    • Released on bail
    • Kept in custody until your court hearing

If you are released with no further action or under investigation, you can still potentially be rearrested or summonsed to attend a court hearing at any time.

Pre-charge bail

During a murder or manslaughter case, you may be released on pre-charge bail while the police make a charging decision.

While released on pre-charge bail, you may be subject to certain bail conditions, such as being not being able to go to certain places or having to visit the police station at certain times.

To find out more in relation to pre-charge bail, please use the links provided below:

Fees and funding

We are always transparent with regards to fees

Legal aid public funding may be available in some cases and will depend on the seriousness of the case, your current financial situation and whether it justifies the grant of public funding.

For clients that do not qualify for public funding, the alternative option will be to fund a case privately.

To find out more about the way we handle fees (both legal aid public funding and private fees), please use the links provided below:

Related offences

We also provide support and guidance on various other matters that are related to murder and manslaughter, including:

Common questions about murder and manslaughter

What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?

Murder and manslaughter both involve the alleged offender causing the death of another person. The distinction between the two offences depends on a number of key factors and with the penalties for murder being much more serious than for manslaughter. This distinction is often critical to any defence case.

How is murder defined by law?

Murder is the most serious form of homicide, and is committed where a person:

  • Unlawfully kills another person;
  • With the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm (i.e. really serious harm); and
  • Is of ‘sound mind and discretion’ at the time of the killing.

What counts as unlawful killing?

All killing is unlawful, unless the victim:

  1. Was killed in self-defence;
  2. Was killed by necessity (albeit in very limited circumstances such as where it was necessary to kill one person in order to save another i.e. conjoined twins); or
  3. Was not under the King’s peace (i.e. is killed in the course of war).

It is for the Crown to disprove these matters if they are raised by the defence.

What is killing of another ‘person’?

In order for the killing to be of another ‘person’, the victim must be a human being, and not:

  1. A foetus; or
  2. A person who has suffered brain death.

What if the killing is an accident?

Accidental killing, where there was no intention to cause death, can still constitute murder if there was intention to commit grievous bodily harm (really serious harm).

Thus, if a person intends to unlawfully cause serious harm to another, but accidentally causes death instead, this will be murder. Serious harm in this context can include injuries such as broken bones, stab wounds and blunt force trauma.

When is a person of ‘sound mind and discretion’?

A person will be of ‘sound mind and discretion’, unless one of the following defences applies:

  1. Insanity;
  2. Loss of control; or
  3. Diminished responsibility

What happens if a person is not of ‘sound mind and discretion’ at the time of the killing?

If a person unlawfully kills another person, with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm, but was not of ‘sound mind and discretion’ at the time of the killing, that person cannot be found ‘guilty’ of murder. However, this does not mean that there will be an acquittal; rather, the result will depend on the defence raised.

Thus, if the person is found to have been insane at the time of the killing, there will be a special verdict of ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’. The court must then make a hospital order, a supervision order, or an order for absolute discharge.

Conversely, if a person successfully pleads loss of control or diminished responsibility, this will result in a conviction for the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

How is manslaughter defined by law?

Manslaughter refers to the category of offences which criminalise unlawful killing that does not meet the requirements of murder. There are two main forms of manslaughter:

  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Involuntary manslaughter.

The key difference is that voluntary manslaughter, like murder, requires an intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm, whereas involuntary manslaughter does not.

What is voluntary manslaughter?

Voluntary manslaughter is essentially a ‘reduced murder charge’.

Where a person charged with murder has a partial defence, this will result in a conviction of one of the offences of voluntary manslaughter:

  • Manslaughter by reason of loss of control
  • Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility

Thus, a murder charge is a prerequisite to a conviction of an offence of voluntary manslaughter. For more information on this type of offence, please take a look at our article on the offence of murder.

What is involuntary manslaughter?

Conversely, a person can be charged with an offence of involuntary manslaughter from the outset, without ever having faced a murder charge. Thus, if you are arrested on suspicion of ‘manslaughter’, this will be for one of the offences of involuntary manslaughter:

  • Unlawful act manslaughter
  • Gross negligence manslaughter

The requirements for the offences of involuntary manslaughter are clearly distinct from those for murder.

What is Unlawful Act Manslaughter?

Unlawful act manslaughter (sometimes referred to as ‘constructive manslaughter’) is a serious criminal offence which is committed when a person:

  1. Does an unlawful act which constitutes a criminal offence (the ‘base offence’);
  2. The act carries a risk of some physical harm; and
  3. The act causes the death of another person; and
  4. The defendant has the mens-rea (mental element) appropriate to the unlawful act which caused the victims death.

What is Gross Negligence Manslaughter?

Gross negligence manslaughter is a serious criminal offence which is committed when a person:

  1. Owes a duty of care to another person;
  2. Breaches that duty of care;
  3. The other person dies because of that breach; and
  4. The breach is so bad in all the circumstances that it should be considered criminal.

What are the sentences for murder and manslaughter?

The maximum sentence for murder is life imprisonment. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 sets out a starting point of 15 years’ imprisonment on conviction for murder where the defendant was aged 18 or over at the time of the offence and 12 years’ imprisonment where the offender was under the age of 18 when the offence occurred.

The starting points for sentencing offences are:

Diminished responsibility – 24 years’ custody.

Loss of control – 14 years’ custody.

Gross negligence manslaughter – 12 years’ custody.

Unlawful act manslaughter – 18 years’ custody.

The actual sentence on conviction for an offence will depend on the degree of ‘culpability’ the defendant is found to have for the offence. Where there are mitigating factors that reduce the defendant’s culpability (e.g. where there was no intention to cause harm or they were acting in self-defence) the sentence on conviction may be significantly lower.

What defences can be used for murder or manslaughter?

The defences to murder and manslaughter will depend on the circumstances. If you deny that you were involved in unlawfully killing someone, your defence will revolve around proving your innocence e.g. showing that you were elsewhere at the time of the offence or that the killing was lawful e.g. that you were acting in self-defence.

If you are accused of murder and accept that you were involved in an unlawful killing, it may be possible to show that you were not of sound mind and discretion or did not have the intention to kill or commit grievous bodily harm. This could see you facing the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Our criminal defence solicitors are highly experienced with murder and manslaughter charges and the various defence options available, so we can make sure every detail is properly considered and that you have the best chance of a positive outcome.

Contact our murder and manslaughter solicitors now

If you are due to attend the police station for interview, have been charged with murder or manslaughter, require any urgent specialist advice or immediate representation, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact a member of our dedicated team of criminal defence lawyers in London, Birmingham, and Manchester by telephone on:

Or email: solicitors@jdspicer.co.uk

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

24/7 legal representation for murder and manslaughter

Please get in touch for a free initial consultation with one of our experts in defences against murder and manslaughter, as well as for immediate advice and representation.

For immediate representation and advice, you can contact our Emergency Number: 07836 577 556 and we will provide you with the urgent assistance you need.

How can we help?

Common questions

We always work with the most experienced and best leading UK barristers, KCs (Kings Counsel). We cover all criminal cases 24/7 at the police station and court. Offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester cover cases across England and Wales. We can offer Legal Aid and affordable Private fee agreements. We can see you the same day, including virtually. Our Senior Partners supervise all of our cases.

How quickly do you respond?

We respond quickly even during out of hours. We do not get our work by paying for online adverts but based on the fact that few criminal law firms can match our 45 years of experience. Most of our cases are still from word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. We are called daily by dissatisfied clients from firms with less experience than us. We respond very quickly to new enquiries. We know what clients seek and so we update clients rapidly.

Can you get cases dropped?

Yes, read about the recent cases we've helped our clients with here.

We always keep you updated and give straightforward advice. We will get cases dropped early where the case is weak or should not be prosecuted. We will be upfront with you about where you can benefit from a good result with an early guilty plea, such as a discount on your sentence. As we work on cases across all levels with clients from all walks of life, we are excellent at giving clear, spot-on advice. As an established firm, we can allocate a whole team to your case often at short notice to secure evidence to minimise the damage to you. 

Have you won any awards?


"JD Spicer Zeb demonstrated a clear commitment to client service through their work with vulnerable and diverse individuals in what can be severely traumatic circumstances".

Do you offer free consultations?

Where it is possible, we aim to provide an initial consultation to you. If we can speak to you, we can if required inform you about  –

  • Whether we can take the case on and our relevant experience.
  • Public and private funding benefits.
  • Assistance in applying for legal aid where we are likely to accept instructions.
  • An outline of options in police interview only. We will not advise you on which option to adopt.
  • Providing our free written guide explaining the police station process.
  • The gravity of routine and day-to-day offences you face.
  • Consequences of not attending the court or police station.
  • Consequences of interfering with any witnesses.
  • Retaining any evidence in support of your case.
  • If possible an outline of the elements of the offence that the police or CPS must prove.
  • This consultation will normally be by telephone or email and will only be for as long as we deem necessary to establish if we can act for you. If we cannot usefully give you any advice in this manner then we will not continue with the consultation. We will not discuss the case in depth for you to be able to decide on your plea or any significant aspect of the case, as this cannot be undertaken informally.
  • Referring you, if possible, to other firms for matters out of our specialism or if we cannot help.

Consultations do not apply to the following cases –

  • If we do not intend to take the case on.
  • Road Traffic cases, drink driving, drug driving, driving bans, speeding, no insurance, mobile phone use, points etc.
  • In all cases where we do not have the capacity to take your case or the availability of suitably qualified staff to provide an initial free consultation. This is applicable in all cases but especially where a more senior lawyer is required because of your personal needs or the complexity of the case.
  • Harassment/stalking/ coercive behaviour/malicious communications or road traffic cases and most sensitive cases. These cases are often too complicated to assess in short consultations.
  • The locations concerned may be too distant to represent you adequately or it may not be cost-effective for you or us.
  • The case is too complicated to assess or raises various charges or facts, complexity, or history to be considered informally or in a short consultation.
  • In most Legal aid transfers where legal aid is granted to another firm except in very grave cases, we may assess the case and merits for a transfer.
  • If your relationship has broken down with your existing solicitor or several solicitors.
  • If you have been released under investigation and have already had a police station attendance. 
  • If you hold legal aid with another firm and seek a second opinion.
  • If you are calling on behalf of the client as a friend or family member unless you have full authority and full facts.
  • To businesses.
  • Advising whether you were given good advice by your other solicitor.
  • Whether to decide to plead guilty or not guilty.
  • Whether you have an arguable defence in law or factually complicated defences.
  • Any advice you have had after your first court appearance.
  • Any advice on appeal on conviction or sentence.
  • If we feel we are unable to communicate with you.
  • If we are likely to be conflicted or breach our professional rules.

How can we help?

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