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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Section VI - Making a Killing


In this final section we explore the relationship between behaviour which is regarded as violent by the formal processes of the criminal justice system (that is, police investigation, prosecution and trial), and that which is condoned or seen as appropriately controlled by other means. In Chapters 18 and 19 we consider different contexts in which violence occurs (at home, on the roads and in the workplace) and use them to demonstrate the ways in which the line between acceptable and unacceptable killing is socially constructed. We show that the criminal law definitions of unlawful homicide (murder, manslaughter and infanticide) cannot on their own explain the ways in which deaths are culturally understood as acceptable or not acceptable. At the same time, we seek to emphasise the argument that criminal regulation has an uneven and contested relationship with other forms of social control. We trace the history which explains how large corporations have tended to remain beyond the reach of criminal law and consider whether the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 will significantly alter this.

Chapter 20 considers the boundary issues of homicide, and begins by questioning whether all killing is wrong. Medical practices in relation to the non-treatment of neonates (i.e. newly born infants), and the extent to which doctors can use pain-killing drugs to hasten death presents difficult questions at the margins of life and the margins of law.