14 Q.B.D. 273
In the 1884 case Regina v. Dudley and Stephens, England's High Court dealt with a famous instance of survival cannibalism and whether necessity could be used as a defense for murder. The case involved four shipwrecked sailors stranded on a lifeboat without supplies. After 20 days, Dudley and Stephens suggested killing one person to provide food for the others. Brooks disagreed, but Parker, the youngest and weakest, didn't object. On the 24th day, Dudley and Stephens killed Parker and the three surviving sailors ate his flesh and blood. Four days later, they were rescued. Dudley and Stephens were charged with murder, while Brooks wasn't.
This case is significant because it established that necessity isn't a valid defense for murder in English law. The defendants claimed they acted out of necessity to save their lives, arguing Parker would have died anyhow. The court disagreed, ruling that taking an innocent life is never justified by necessity, even in dire circumstances. The court reasoned that allowing such a defense could lead to abuses, and human life must be respected and protected. The court also pointed out that the defendants didn't hold a lottery or get Parker's consent before killing him. The court found Dudley and Stephens guilty of murder and initially sentenced them to death, but later reduced their sentences to six months in prison.
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