We’re one of the few metal blogs on the web who have devoted no space at all to the criminal charges that Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe is facing in the Czech Republic. There are various reasons for that, but one of them is that we didn’t want to join the ranks of many whose writing on the subject has generated more heat than light, preferring instead to wait until a time when we might be able to contribute some meaningful insight into the problems that Blythe is currently experiencing.
Today is that day. Today, we have a guest post by a British criminal attorney, Clare Paget, who is one of the best minds at the law firm of Hanne & Co, in London, UK. She provides some actual trained legal insight into the situation. And for that, we owe thanks to one of our favorite UK extreme metal band’s, Prosthetic recording artist Dragged Into Sunlight, who put us in touch with Ms. Paget.
As you probably know, Randy Blythe was arrested on June 28 upon landing in Prague and was charged with what is being described as the offense of manslaughter under Czech law for allegedly causing the death of a fan named Daniel Nosek at a Lamb of God show in the country on May 24, 2010. At the time of this writing, Blythe remains in a Prague jail because the Czech prosecutor has filed an objection to his release on $200,000 bail.
Ms. Paget has experience with this type of case under British law, including obtaining the acquittal of a defendant in a high profile manslaughter case in 2011. Of course, because the charges against Blythe are based on conduct committed in the Czech Republic, the Czech criminal code will be applied to determine whether he committed an offense. Nevertheless, based on our research (which includes a review of this translation of the Czech criminal code and this summary and analysis of that code), it appears that there are relevant similarities between the Czech and British legal principles applicable to this type of criminal charge, as Ms. Paget describes them.
After the jump, Ms. Paget offers a concise analysis of the case based on her own experience in defending against manslaughter charges in the UK.
The offence of manslaughter covers a variety of scenarios. Under UK law, the situation that Randy has found himself in would likely be covered by the offence of unlawful act manslaughter. This is an offence of unlawful killing without intent to kill or to cause serious harm to someone, and the death must have resulted from the defendant’s unlawful act.
The unlawful act must be one that a reasonable person would see as resulting in some harm, albeit not serious harm, such as an assault involving a push or a punch. The accused would not have to intend to kill or seriously harm the victim to be guilty of manslaughter, he would just have to intend to cause some harm.
However, it must be established that the death was caused by the unlawful act. This usually requires consideration of medical evidence, which would be especially relevant if the death did not occur immediately, as in the present case. In a similar case under UK law, I might argue that the death was not the result of the alleged incident, and this can often result in lengthy investigation as well as the careful analysis of evidence.
Unlawful act manslaughter has to involve an unlawful act taking place. This means that if the accused did an act in lawful self defence, it would not be an unlawful act. Acting in self defence is a defence to this charge in accordance with UK law.
If it were established that Randy Blythe had pushed the fan offstage and that this caused his death, then the defence of acting in self defence would be open to Randy Blythe in a UK Court, if certain circumstances applied.
If Randy felt that he was in danger of imminent attack, then he would be entitled to do only what was reasonable to defend himself from that attack, and it may have been that he had to take instant action. The law would not have required him to wait until he was actually attacked before he retaliated, if a pre-emptive strike was reasonably necessary to defend himself.
That said, striking someone out of anger or aggression, after the threat of attack is over, would not be self defence.
The maximum sentence for manslaughter in accordance with UK law is life imprisonment – however, this type of offence can be punished by a wide variety of sentences depending on the circumstances of the offence, from life imprisonment to a conditional discharge.
In accordance with UK law, there are three main grounds for a court to deny bail and remand a defendant in custody. These reasons are as follows; if there is a substantial fear that the defendant would not attend court, would commit further offences whilst free on bail, or would interfere with the course of justice. An example of this may be interfering with a witnesses or some other evidence. In deciding whether to grant bail, the court would take into account the nature and seriousness of the offence, the defendant’s antecedents, and the circumstances surrounding the alleged offence.
If bail is granted, then this is likely to be subject to bail conditions designed to guard against the occurrence of any of those three scenarios. The court may require, for example, a sum of money to be paid into court (called a security) which the payee would lose should the defendant abscond. Mr Blythe’s bail was set in the Prague Courts at $200,000.
A security is particularly relevant if an allegation occurs in another country with which the defendant has no ties. The court could impose conditions to ensure that he stays in the country. The court may feel that the large amount of money paid as a security would ensure his attendance even if he left the country prior to his trial.
Once the decision has been taken by the court to release someone on bail, then release in the UK would take place immediately, subject to the conditions of bail being met – in a case where a security is ordered to be paid, then once it is paid the defendant would be released forthwith.
This would depend on the amount and type of evidence that would be called, which would relate to the issues involved in the case. Unlawful act manslaughter would usually involve medical evidence being called, which would involve the use of expert witnesses regarding whether the alleged unlawful act actually caused the death. There may also be many other witnesses to the events themselves who may be called. A recent high profile manslaughter trial that I worked on lasted five weeks.
CCTV & SOCIAL MEDIA
If there was CCTV from the venue that was seized, then that could be played in court as evidence if relevant to the case.
Nowadays, social media has found its own place in evidence. YouTube footage, for example, could be used in court if it is relevant to the incident in question. Care would have to be taken regarding what it demonstrates, the quality of the footage, and the provenance of it. The issues in the case, whether the person who took the footage is available as a witness, and the quality and relevance of the footage would all be factors for the court to consider in deciding whether to admit it as evidence and the degree of reliance that could be placed on it if it were.