Understanding the Law on Manslaughter in Kenya: There is a big difference between murder and manslaughter. The main distinguishing factor between both of these offenses is the presence and absence of malice aforethought. Malice aforethought determines the rights of the accused in terms of which court will hear their case, whether they will be sentenced to life imprisonment, their right to post bail, and their right to an attorney. Here is a look at what the Kenyan law says about manslaughter.
Murder Versus Manslaughter
To be able to define manslaughter, you need to understand what murder is. Murder is killing another person intentionally without any legal excuse whereas manslaughter is the killing of another person without deliberation, premeditation, or malice. Murder cases are only heard in the high court whereas manslaughter cases may be heard at the senior resident magistrate court. Furthermore, a person charged with murder for the first time may be given a sentence for manslaughter depending on the court’s discretion.
Manslaughter may be in form of a justifiable killing or an excusable killing. For example, when a policeman kills the enemy in war or in self-defense, this killing is justified. Excusable killings are where a person is insane or where there is grave provocation in the heat of the moment. Excusable killings are deemed to be manslaughter according to Section 179(2) of the criminal procedure code, only if the accused did not provoke the victim. Self-defense is another form of excusable killing. Also, when a person is excessively drunk and is not capable of forming any malice aforethought, any death occurring from their actions will be excused.
Penalty for Manslaughter
For a person to be accused of manslaughter, they have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the killing was not premeditated, was provoked, and that the accused did not intend it to result in the death of the victim. While murder may carry a life imprisonment sentence, manslaughter will carry a sentence that the court deems fair. For example, a drunk driver who kills a pedestrian may get a couple of years in prison and have their license suspended and face other small penalties.
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