III. Domestic violence acts: Possible fatal criminal offences
Depending upon the force used, its consequences, and the abuser’s intention in using that force, the abuser may be charged with murder or manslaughter. Murder is the unlawful killing of a person where the abuser had the intension of killing or causing grievous bodily harm. The abuser who uses violence intending to kill or intending to cause the victim grievous bodily harm therefore commits murder if the victim dies. Murder is a common law offence but punishable under section 2 of the Offences Against the Person Ordinance ( Cap. 212 ). The only penalty for murder is imprisonment for life.
Where violence is inflicted with no intent to kill or to cause grievous bodily harm but the victim dies, the abuser may be convicted of manslaughter. Manslaughter is any unlawful killing which is not murder. Inflicting violence is an unlawful act. It is also a dangerous act. If at the same time, it is an act which is likely to injure another person and, inadvertently, that person dies, the abuser is guilty of manslaughter. The punishment for manslaughter is any sentence up to and including life imprisonment.