Culpable homicide is a specific offence in various jurisdictions within the Commonwealth of Nations which involves the illegal killing of a person with either or both of intention or absence of intention depending upon how a particular jurisdiction has defined the offence. Unusually for those legal systems which have originated or been influenced during rule by England or later the United Kingdom the name of the offence associates with Scots Law rather than English Law.

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'[1] . 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 rearequirement is different in each case.

The offence has previously been applied to individual defendants but following the collapse of a trial brought against Transco following the deaths of 4 people in a gas explosion in Larkhallin 1999 and other fatal events involving corporate bodies the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007[2] has introduced a new statutory offence of corporate homicideinto Scots Law.