A new legal clause which would have allowed a person to be
convicted of murder or manslaughter on their silence alone has been
defeated in the House of Lords, writes Natasha
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 a clause allowing a jury or court to draw inferences of
guilt about a defendant charged with murder or manslaughter from
their failure to give evidence, or refusal to answer a
The change will be particularly relevant in cases where it is
unclear which parent killed a child, or which family member was
responsible for the death of an older person.
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.