Attempted murder is a very serious offence under English law and it is one that is treated equally as seriously by the English courts. If you or someone you care about has been charged with attempted murder, getting legal advice from a trusted expert source is vital. This article covers the offence of attempted murder in the UK, gives examples of the offence, outlines what happens if you are suspected of committing attempted murder, outlines the sentence, and discusses whether first time offenders will go to prison. It also shows you where to get more help if you are facing such charges.
What is the offence of attempted murder in the UK?
Attempted murder is a crime where someone tries to kill another person but doesn’t succeed in causing their death. This means that even if the victim survives, the person who attempted to kill them can still be charged and prosecuted.
To prove a case of attempted murder, the prosecution must demonstrate several key elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Intent to Kill: The prosecution must show that the accused person had a clear intention to cause the death of the victim. This means they must prove that the offender had a deliberate and conscious plan to end the victim’s life.
- Actus Reus: This is a Latin term that refers to the physical act or actions taken by the accused. In a case of attempted murder, it must be proven that the offender carried out some overt act towards causing the victim’s death. This could be anything from using a weapon, administering poison, or engaging in other actions that, if successful, would result in death.
- Mens Rea: This is another Latin term, which refers to the guilty state of mind. In the case of attempted murder, the prosecution must establish that the offender had the necessary mental state to commit the crime. This means they intended to kill and understood the consequences of their actions.
- Causation: Although the victim must not have died for an attempted murder charge to apply, there must be a direct link between the actions of the offender and the potential cause of death. In other words, the prosecution must demonstrate that if the offender’s actions had been successful, they would have resulted in the victim’s death.
The burden of proof lies with the prosecution, and they must prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction. Attempted murder is a grave offence in the UK, and those found guilty of it may face lengthy prison sentences, often with a minimum term that must be served before parole eligibility.
What are some examples of attempted murder offences in the UK?
Examples of attempted murder include:
- Shooting at someone with the intent to kill: If an individual shoots at another person with the clear intention of causing their death, even if they miss or the victim survives, it can be considered attempted murder.
- Hiring a hitman to kill someone: If someone hires or conspires with another person to carry out a murder, even if the hired hitman fails to carry out the act, both the person who hired the hitman and the hitman themselves can be charged with attempted murder.
- Strangulation or suffocation: Attempting to strangle or suffocate someone with the intent of causing their death, even if the victim manages to escape or survive, can be considered attempted murder.
- Placing explosives with the intent to cause harm: Placing explosive devices in a location with the intention of causing death, even if the explosives fail to detonate or cause harm, can lead to charges of attempted murder.
- Staging a lethal accident: Deliberately causing a potentially fatal accident, such as tampering with the brakes on a vehicle or causing structural damage to a building, with the intent of causing death, constitutes attempted murder, regardless of whether the intended fatality occurs.
In all these examples, the crucial element is the offender’s intent to cause the victim’s death, even if they do not succeed in their deadly plan.
What happens if you are suspected of committing attempted murder in the UK?
If you are suspected of committing attempted murder in the UK, it is important to understand the legal process and the potential consequences you may face. Here’s a general overview of what happens if you are suspected of this serious crime:
- Investigation: When police officers have reason to believe that an attempted murder has occurred, they will initiate an investigation. This typically involves gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, collecting forensic evidence, and identifying suspects. If you are a suspect, the police may seek to question you. Be aware of your rights at this stage, including your right to remain silent and your right to legal representation. You should consider seeking legal advice before speaking to the police.
- Arrest: If the evidence against you is deemed sufficient, the police may arrest you. You will be taken into custody and informed of the reasons for your arrest. You will also be cautioned that anything you say can be used against you in court. Again, it is advisable to exercise your right to remain silent and request legal representation.
- Interrogation and Statement: While in custody, you may be questioned by the police. You have the right to have a solicitor present during any questioning. It is generally recommended to consult with a solicitor before making any statements to the police. Anything you say during questioning can be used as evidence in court.
- Bail or Detention: Depending on the circumstances and the seriousness of the offence, you may be either released on bail or under investigation, or held in custody pending further investigation. Release conditions may be imposed to ensure that you do not pose a flight risk or a danger to the public.
- Charging: If the evidence against you is strong enough, the police may charge you with attempted murder. At this point, you will be provided with a charge sheet outlining the specific allegations against you. You will then be required to appear before a magistrate’s court.
- Court Proceedings: Once the case reaches court, you will have the opportunity to enter a plea (guilty or not guilty). If you plead not guilty, a trial will be scheduled. During the trial, the prosecution will present its case, and you will have the chance to present your defence. The jury will determine your guilt or innocence based on the evidence and arguments presented.
- Sentencing: If you are found guilty of attempted murder, you will face a sentencing hearing. The judge will consider various factors, including the severity of the offence, your prior criminal history (if any), and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. Attempted murder carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment in the UK.
- Appeals: You have the right to appeal a conviction or sentence if you believe there were legal errors during the trial or if new evidence emerges.
Being suspected of a crime does not equate to guilt, and you have the right to a fair trial and legal representation.
What is the sentence for attempted murder?
The maximum sentence for attempted murder in the UK is life imprisonment. This reflects how seriously it is viewed.
Sentencing guidelines cover attempted murder, although judges will take an overall view of culpability and harm. Starting points in the guidelines are:
- 15 years custody for cases with highest culpability and greater harm.
- 10 years custody for cases with high culpability but lesser harm.
- 6 years custody for cases with lower culpability but greater harm.
Aggravating factors like significant planning or a vulnerable victim can increase the sentence. Conversely, mitigating factors like a lesser role or mental health problems may reduce it.
The judge has discretion to depart from the guidelines where appropriate. That said, sentences over 10 years can be expected in most cases of attempted murder.
Will I go to prison if it is my first time committing attempted murder?
It is highly likely that a first time offender will receive a custodial sentence for attempted murder. The offence is viewed extremely seriously regardless of previous convictions.
While a guilty plea, expression of remorse, and good character may have some mitigating impact, the starting point will still be a lengthy prison sentence in most cases.
Non-custodial options like a community order or suspended sentence are very unlikely to be considered appropriate by a judge for a premeditated attempt to unlawfully kill someone.
A first time offender would need exceptional circumstances to avoid a prison sentence. Even youth, mental disorders, or playing a lesser role would still expect at least 5-10 years custody. Attempted murder carries great public concern.
Where to get further help
If you are facing charges for attempted murder, urgent legal assistance from an experienced criminal defence solicitor is strongly advised. The team at Stuart Miller Solicitors have decades of combined experience in this area and can help you navigate the choppy waters of the English justice system. Contact us today for a free consultation.
OUR COMMITMENTS TO YOU:
A legal expert will consult you within 24 hours of making an enquiry.
We will always treat you with trust, understanding and respect.
Your case will be handled by an expert who specialises in your type of offence.
We will take early action to end proceedings as soon as it is practically and legally possible to do so.
You will be kept updated on your case at all times. We will provide a named contact available to answer your questions.
We understand this is a difficult and stressful time for you and your family. Our team will support you every step of the way.
We will never give up on your case. We fight tirelessly to get you the best possible outcome.