R v Franklin – Case Summary

R v Franklin

Crown Court

Citations: (1883) 15 Cox CC 163.


The defendant threw a large box off a pier into the sea. The box struck the victim, who was swimming underwater at the time. The victim died. The defendant was charged with unlawful act manslaughter and gross negligence manslaughter.

The prosecution argued that they could obtain a manslaughter conviction by showing that the defendant’s act was unlawful under any branch of law – such as tort or contract. The defendant contended that the only relevant unlawful act was a criminal act – and his actions were not criminally unlawful.

  1. Could the defendant be guilty of unlawful act manslaughter?

The Crown Court held that the jury could only be permitted to consider negligent manslaughter. The fact that an action was unlawful in civil law was insufficient basis for a manslaughter conviction. On this basis, the jury convicted the defendant of negligent manslaughter only.

This Case is Authority For…

To establish unlawful act manslaughter, the prosecution must prove that the defendant has performed an action which is criminally unlawful. It is insufficient that the act is illegal under other branches of law.