Culpable homicide

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Culpable homicide is a categorisation of certain offences in various jurisdictions within the Commonwealth of Nations which involves the illegal killing of a person either with or without an intention to kill depending upon how a particular jurisdiction has defined the offence. Unusually for those legal systems which have originated or been influenced during rule by the United Kingdom, the name of the offence associates with Scots law rather than English law.


"Culpable homicide" offences are found in the following jurisdictions; the description of the local version of the offence is given where available:


In Canada, "culpable homicide" is not itself an offence. Rather, the term is used in the Criminal Code to classify all killings of persons as either culpable or not culpable homicide.[1] There are three types of culpable homicide: murder, manslaughter and infanticide. Killings classified as not culpable are justifiable killings; thus the term is used to define the criminal intent or mens rea of a killing. Non-culpable homicide includes those committed in self-defence.[2]


The offences include causing death whether by intention or not.

"Culpable homicide" is an offence under §299[3] of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), defined as "Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide."

"Culpable homicide not amounting to murder" is an offence under §304[4] of the Indian Penal Code. It applies to an event where the death is intentional but it comes within the IPC definition of "murder".[5] It is a non bailable charge.


The Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) in earlier form included the offence of "culpable homicide" for acts of homicide resulting from the infliction of intentional harm upon a person:

§299 Culpable homicide

§301 Culpable homicide by causing death of person other than person whose death was intended

Amendments in recent years have replaced the specific phrase "culpable homicide" within those sections and introduced terms from Sharia law but it remains in §38 (Persons concerned in criminal act may be guilty of different offences).

The current equivalent sections are:

300. Qatl-e-Amd:

Whoever, with the intention of causing death or with the intention of causing bodily injury to a person, by doing an act which in the ordinary course of nature is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that his act is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death, causes the death of such person, is said to commit qatl-e-amd.

301. Causing death of person other than the person whose death was intended:

Where a person, by doing anything which he intends or knows to be likely to cause death, causes death of any person whose death he neither intends nor knows himself to be likely to cause, such an act committed by the offender shall be liable for qatl-i-amd.

Following sections of the PPC deal further with the offence in increased detail.


Culpable homicide is committed where the accused has caused loss of life through wrongful conduct, but where there was no intention to kill or "wicked recklessness".[6] It is an offence under common law and is roughly equivalent to the offence of manslaughter in English law.

While the offence charged remains the same there can be a great variation between individual cases including whether or not the act was voluntary or involuntary:

  • Voluntary culpable homicide is homicide where the mens rea for murder is present but mitigating circumstances reduce the crime to culpable homicide.
  • Involuntary culpable homicide is homicide where the mens rea for murder is not present but either the independent mens rea for culpable homicide is present, or the circumstances in which death was caused make it culpable homicide. Involuntary culpable homicide may arise in the context of an unlawful act or a lawful act. The mens rea requirement is different in each case.


"Culpable homicide" is when a person is unexpectedly killed by another person who is protecting himself/herself. It is not intentional murder but self-defence.[citation needed]

South Africa[edit]

"Culpable homicide" has been defined (in South African law) simply as "the unlawful negligent killing of a human being", the rough equivalent of involuntary manslaughter in Anglo-American law.[7]

See also[edit]