What is the difference between murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder?
In the past week, two people accused of murder had their charges reduced to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. This prompted Channel News Asia to produce a feature article to explain the differences between murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. In the course of this, several prominent defence lawyers were interviewed, including our partner, Chooi Jing Yen.
The offence of culpable homicide under Section 299 refers to three different states of mind: Intention to cause death, intention to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and knowledge that the act done is likely to cause death. All three states of mind can, if certain conditions are fulfilled, amount to murder under Section 300. However, culpable homicide will not amount to murder if one of several “partial defences” to murder are present. These are commonly known as “partial defences” because they do not completely exonerate the charged person, unlike general defences such as private defence.
There is a common misconception that an offence is a murder only if it was done with the intention to kill. However, the offence of culpable homicide also requires intention or knowledge on the part of the accused.
Additionally, Jing Yen pointed out that the Criminal Procedure Code does not allow an accused person to plead guilty to an offence that carries a death sentence. Therefore, technically, nobody can plead guilty to an offence of murder. But one can plead guilty to an offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, since the maximum punishment is life imprisonment.
The prosecution might also choose to reduce a murder charge to culpable homicide not amounting to murder if they consider that the offender has a partial defence entitling him to be sentenced for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, rather than for the offence of murder. They might also consider the unique circumstances of the offender or other “compassionate reasons” in making the decision.
The full article is available in the link below.