Involuntary manslaughter occurs where a person causes death under such circumstances that he did not intend to kill and did not foresee death as a probable consequence of his conduct but there is some blameworthiness, such as gross negligence, in his conduct. It may also occur where death is the result of an unlawful act which involves the risk of harm to another. Being an unintentional killing it follows that there can be no attempt or conspiracy to commit involuntary manslaughter.
When a person does an act or makes an omission and death results from negligence on his part, the question whether he is guilty of manslaughter depends on the degree of negligence. The criminal code is silent as to the requisite degree of negligence but Nigerian courts have held that the degree is the same as in English law. The negligence must be above the ordinary tortuous, negligence. Accordingly, simple lack of care or more inadvertence such as would create civil liability is not sufficient. There must be gross negligence or recklessness.
This concerns members of the medical profession. Section 3030 of the code imposes a duty upon any person who, except in a case of necessity, undertakes to administer surgical or medical treatment to any other person, to have reasonable skill and to use reasonable care in doing so. A doctor who negligently causes a patient’s death is not guilty of manslaughter unless his negligence or incompetence is so great as to show a disregard for life and safety and to amount to a crime against the state. See the case of R V. Akerele.
Another important line of cases concerns drivers of motor vehicles. In R V. Kojo, the driver of a car which had defective steering and useless brakes was held guilty of manslaughter when without any apparent reason his car mounted a parement and killed a child because his conduct in driving the car in the condition in which it was showed a reckless disregard for the life and safety of others. Where a taxi driver entered a main road with an excellent view in both directions and coiled with a lorry properly driven on the road at a time when he had been signaled to stop and had conviction of a woman for conspiracy with others to procure an abortion on herself, even though she was not in fact pregnant.