In one of the episodes of the British-Irish television series The Fall, a person is charged by PSNI, in Northern Ireland, with multiple counts of murder. The police officer reads out the charges in full, one by one, stating the actual offence and each time using the phrase contrary to common law to describe the offence.
I searched online a bit and the Wikipedia page on common law offence says
Common law offences are crimes under English criminal law and the related criminal law of other Commonwealth countries. They are offences under the common law, developed entirely by the law courts, and therefore have no specific basis in statute.
However, it seems that there is indeed a statute, Offences against the Person Act 1861, currently in effect in England and partially in effect in Northern Ireland as well which makes homicide of the type covered in that series an offence.
My questions therefore are:
- Is my interepreation of the phrase contrary to common law correct in that it implies that the offence mentioned in the charges were common law offences and not statutory offences? If not then what does that phrase actually mean?
- Did the writers of that episode make an error or is it that homicide is indeed a common law offence and not a statutory offence?