R v Slingsby [1995] Crim LR 570

Manslaughter – Assault – Consent – Accidental death


The defendant, Simon Slingsby, penetrated the complainant’s vagina and rectum with his fingers, accidentally cutting her with the signet ring he was wearing. The complainant did not notice the internal cuts, which later became infected, causing the complainant to develop septicaemia and die. The defendant was convicted of manslaughter under sections 20 and 47 of the Offences Against a Persons Act 1861, in the Crown Court.


At its highest, whether Slingsby should be convicted of manslaughter and whether his actions had constituted assault or unlawful under ss 20 and or 47 of the Act. The actions were lawful and not assault in circumstances where no harm was intended and consent had been obtained to carry out vigorous and legal sexual acts.


Judge J held that the activity of inserting fingers into the vagina and rectum for sexual pleasure was not in itself an assault and was not an unlawful act, where consent had been obtained. The defence of consent to injury had not arisen into question as there had been no intent to injure the complainant. Rather, it was an unfortunate and accidental consequence of the activity that only occurred because the defendant was wearing a signet ring. It had only been considered an assault as an injury had occurred. Therefore, it was held to be contrary to principle to convict Slingsby of manslaughter where an unforeseen and unintended injury had occurred, arising from vigorous consensual sexual activity. The appeal was allowed and the conviction was quashed.