R v Church [1966] 1 QB 59, [1965] 2 W.L.R. 1220

Key point

  • The principle in Meli applies to manslaughter – the mens rea need not exactly coincide with the act causing death if the act is part of a connected series of acts which at some point of time coincided with the mens rea
  • To establish constructive/unlawful act manslaughter, the risk of harm have been capable of being foreseen by sober and reasonable people


  • D was knocked the victim unconscious during a fight
  • D dumped her body in the river, thinking that she was already dead
  • Medical examination showed that D died from drowning
  • The judge directed the jury to consider the ‘whole course of conduct of the accused as one’

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • D’s conviction for manslaughter was upheld

Edmund Davies J

  • In light of Meli the direction was correct
  • Citing Glanville Williams: ‘If a killing by the first act would have been manslaughter, a later destruction of the supposed corpse should also be manslaughter.’
  • An unlawful act causing the death of another cannot, simply because it is an unlawful act, render a manslaughter verdict inevitable, some additional element of mens rea is required
  • To establish manslaughter, ‘the unlawful act must be such as all sober and reasonable people would inevitably recognise must subject the other person to, at least, the risk of some harm resulting therefrom, albeit not serious harm’: p. 70
Scroll to top