Regina v Government of Holloway Prison, Ex parte Jennings: HL 1983

J sought habeas corpus to avoid her extradition to California on a charge of manslaughter arising from a motor accident. Her counsel argued that the unlawful killing of another by the reckless driving of a motor vehicle on a road was no longer manslaughter by the law of England, since the enactment of the Road Traffic of 1956 and 1977 Acts, saying reckless driving and motor manslaughter were synonymous, and since reckless driving was not an offence for which a person could be extradited under the treaty with the USA, the applicant could not be extradited on the charge of manslaughter.
Held: The argument was rejected, after a review of the legislative history, The common law offence of manslaughter remained intact. The ingredients of the statutory offence of reckless driving causing death were co-extensive with the ingredients of the common law offence of manslaughter.
Lord Roskill discussed the presumption against the implied repeal of a common law offence: ‘My Lords, counsel for the defendant also referred your Lordships to a number of cases in the last century and indeed before on the subject of the implied repeal of an earlier by a later statute, as, for example, Henderson v Sherborne (1837) 2 M and W 236, 150 ER 743 and Michell v Brown (1858) 28 LJMC 53. An even more striking example can be found in the earlier case of R v Davis (1783) 1 Leach 271, 168 ER 238, where a statute creating a capital offence was, perhaps not surprisingly, held to have been impliedly repealed by a later statute carrying a penalty of only andpound;20. My Lords, I do not doubt that the principles applicable to the implied repeal of an earlier by a later statute are well established. But today those old cases must be approached and applied with caution. Until comparatively late in the last century statutes were not drafted with the same skill as today.’ and
‘In a field so complex as the criminal law as it exists today, frequently changing society, a crucial change of this kind was, if counsel’s submission is right, left only to implication. The 1977 Act, on s. 50 of which counsel relied so strongly as giving rise to an implied repeal of the relevant part of the common law of manslaughter, itself contains an express repeal of the common law offence of conspiracy in clear and explicit language. I refer to s. 5 which provides that ‘the offence of conspiracy at common law is hereby abolished’. If Parliament had in the 1977 Act intended to abolish the relevant part of the common law offence of manslaughter I should have expected to find a similar provision somewhere in the legislation between 1956 and 1977. My Lords, there is none. On the contrary there are, as I have shown, plenty of indications of an intention that that common law offence should remain fully intact after 1956 and after 1977 as it had before the successive statutory offences had ever been created. The fact that Parliament made it possible in those years for prosecuting authorities to choose to prosecute for a lesser offence carrying a lesser penalty does not seem to me to militate against the correctness of the view I have formed. No doubt the prosecuting authorities today would only prosecute for manslaughter in the case of death caused by the reckless driving of a motor vehicle on a road in a very grave case.’

Lord Roskill
[1982] 3 All ER 104, [1983] RTR 1, (1982) 75 Cr App R 367, [1983] 1 AC 624, [1982] 3 WLR 450, (1982) 146 JP 396
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedBrown v The Queen (Jamaica) PC 13-Apr-2005
A police officer appealed against his conviction for manslaughter after being involved in a road traffic accident. Two were killed. The policemen complained as to the direction given on gross negligence manslaughter.
Held: Adomako could not . .
CitedWilkinson, Regina (on The Application of) v HM Coroner for The Greater Manchester South District Admn 11-Oct-2012
The court was asked whether evidence of the commission of the criminal offence of causing death by careless driving contrary to section 2B of the 1988 Act is capable of justifying a verdict of ‘unlawful killing’ at an inquest.
Held: The . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Road Traffic, Constitutional

Updated: 20 December 2021; Ref: scu.226127