A new legal clause which would have allowed a person to be
convicted of murder or manslaughter on the basis of their silence
has been defeated in the House of Lords.
During the third reading of the Domestic Violence, Crime and
Victims Bill, the Lords voted 128 to 110 in favour of an amendment
to withdraw the clause.
The clause would allow a jury or court to draw inferences of guilt
about a defendant charged with murder or manslaughter in the case
of a death of a child or vulnerable adult in their care from their
failure to give evidence or refusal to answer a question.
Lord Thomas of Gresford, who put forward the amendment, told the
Lords that silence did not necessarily indicate guilt. “Love, fear,
loyalty, family solidarity are all reasons from which it would be
unsafe to draw the inference of a person’s guilt where there is no
other evidence,” he said.
However, the Lords backed a clause that will create a new offence
of “causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable adult”.
The offence would carry a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment
and a fine.
The bill will now go to the House of Commons.