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Cases - actus reus - causation

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Adams, R v (1957) Devlin J

Benge, R v (1865)  pre-SCJA 1873

Blaue, R v [1975] CA

California v Lewis (1899) (California)

Cheshire, R v [1991] CA

Dalloway, R v (1847) Erle J

Jordan, R v (1956) CA

Malcherek & Steel, R v [1981] CA

Marjoram, R v (1999) CA

Pagett, R v (1983) CA

Smith, R v [1959] CMAC

White, R v [1910] CA

Adams, R v [1957] Devlin J

 


 

^[Causation - doctors double effect]

D, a doctor was charged with "easing the passing" of elderly patients by giving drugs calculated to hasten their deaths (one had left a bequest - including a Rolls-Royce - to him in her will).


Held: A doctor has no special defence, but "he is entitled to do all that is proper and necessary to relieve pain even if the measures he takes may incidentally shorten life".


Acquitted

Also here

Benge, R v (1865)  pre-SCJA 1873

 

^[Causation - operative cause - negligence of third parties]
D, a foreman platelayer misread the timetable as to when a train was to arrive. He placed a flagman at the wrong distance giving insufficient warning to the driver. A train left the rails at a spot where rails had been taken up and not replaced.  

 

D argued that the accident would not have occurred if other servants of the company had done their duty. It was the duty of the foreman of plate layers to direct when the work should be done, and also to direct effective signals to be given

 

Held: It was irrelevant that it might have been avoided if other persons had not also been negligent.  Though D was under the general control of an inspector of the district, the inspector was not liable; and the foreman was, assuming his negligence, to have been a material and substantial cause of the accident, even though there had also been negligence on the part of the engine driver, in not keeping a sufficient look-out.

 

Guilty of manslaughter

Also here

Blaue, R v [1975] CA

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

 

[Causation - novus actus inteveniens - death occurring from Vs own actions does not break causation think skull rule]
D stabbed an 18-year-old woman V and punctured her lung. At the hospital, V was told she would need a blood transfusion to save her life, but refused this as contrary to her religious beliefs. She died next day.

 

Held: It has long been the policy of the law that those who use violence on other people must take their victims as they find them. This principle clearly applies to the mental as well as the physical characteristics of the victim, and the courts will rarely make a judgement as to whether the victim's response was reasonable.

 

Guilty of manslaughter (diminished responsibility)

Also here

California v Lewis (1899) (California)

 

 

^[Causation - death occurring from Vs own actions do not break causation]
D shot his brother-in-law, inflicting a wound which would have proved fatal within a relatively short period. However, the victim shortly thereafter cut his own throat, thus further hastening his death.

 

Held: D's shooting was an "operative and substantial cause" of death.

 

Guilty manslaughter

Also here

Comment: Similar case involving the famous explorer Meriwether Lewis

Cheshire, R v [1991] CA

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

 

[Causation - medical treatment not novus actus inteveniens - sole or main cause]
D shot V in an argument in a chip shop, and V was taken to hospital where a tracheotomy was performed. Six weeks later, V suffered breathing problems because of the tracheotomy scar and died. The hospital had been negligent - perhaps even reckless - in not recognising the likely cause of V's problems and responding to them.

 

Held: This did not break the chain of causation from the shooting. D's actions need not be the sole or even the main cause of death as long as they contributed significantly to that result; medical negligence did not exclude D's liability unless it was so independent of his acts and so potent as to make his own contribution insignificant. Only in the most extraordinary and unusual case would treatment, whether right or wrong, given in good faith by a generally competent doctor, be regarded as independent of the original injury.

 

Guilty

Also here

Dalloway, R v (1847) Erle J

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material


 

[Causation the negligence must cause the death - must be operative cause]
D driving a cart not holding the reins. A three-year-old child ran into the road was struck by one of the cart wheels and was killed.

 

Held: D could not have prevented the childs death by using the reins.

 

Not guilty

Also here

Jordan, R v (1956) CA

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

 

^[Causation - medical treatment not novus actus inteveniens unless medical treatment palpably wrong]
D stabbed V, and V died from bronchopneumonia in hospital about a week later. New evidence not available at the trial indicated that the bronchopneumonia was probably caused by B's unusual reaction to terramycin (which had been given even after his allergy had been discovered) and/or by an excess dose of intravenous fluids.

 

Held: The medical treatment was 'palpably wrong' and would have 'precluded' a jury from holding that death was caused by D's action.

 

Not guilty of murder

Also here

Malcherek & Steel, R v [1981] CA

 

 Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

[Causation - medical treatment not novus actus inteveniens]

D stabbed his wife who was taken to hospital and put on a life support machine.  She suffered two heart failures and after ten days had irretrievable brain damage.  The doctors switched off the machine.

 

Held: The doctors' decision did not break the chain of causation; D's act could be regarded as the cause of V's death.

 

Guilty murder

Also here

Marjoram, R v (1999) CA

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

^[Causation - but for test - substantial and operating cause]
D, a youth inflicted grievous bodily harm by forcing his way into 16 year old Jennifer Bluett's room on the third floor room in a hostel, causing her - in fear - to jump or fall (47 feet) to the ground through the window, receiving life-threatening injuries.

 

Held: D was guilty if such an outcome was foreseeable by a reasonable person in D's position (whether or not D had actually foreseen it). The reasonable man did not have to be the same sex and age as the defendant (although in this case he was the same age).

 

Guilty

Also here

Comment: At the time of writing (2004) Ms Bluett is still in a wheelchair, and has a 3 year-old daughter Isabella. Her civil action for damages have so far failed.

Pagett, R v (1983) CA

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

^[Causation - act of third party - novus actus interveniens - self-defence not novus]
D armed with a shotgun and cartridges, shot at police who were attempting to arrest him. D held a 16-year-old girl who was pregnant by him as a shield.

The officers returned fire and the girl was killed.

 

The jury acquitted him of murder and convicted him of manslaughter.

Held: His unlawful and dangerous act (directed against the police) was the cause of G's death, and that was sufficient. [The police were subsequently found to have been negligent, and had to pay civil compensation to G's family]


(1) It was for the jury - properly directed - to decide whether or not the relevant causal link has been established;

(2) The accused's act need not be the sole cause, or even the main cause, of the victim's death, it being enough that the act contributed significantly to that result.

(3) Although an act of an accused may constitute a causa sine qua non (but for test) of the death of the victim, nevertheless the intervention of a third person may be regarded as the sole cause of the victim's death (or novus actus interveniens) thereby relieving the accused of criminal liability.

(4) A reasonable act of self-preservation, or self-defence, is not a novus actus interveniens; nor is an act done in the execution of legal duty.

(5) In the present case, the jury must have found that the appellant had used the girl victim by force and against her will as a shield to protect him from any shots fired by the police. The effect was that he committed not one but two unlawful acts, both of which were dangerous - the act of firing at the police, and the act of holding the girl as a shield in front of him when the police might well fire shots in his direction in self-defence. Either act could, if on the above principles it resulted in the death of the girl, constitute the actus reus of manslaughter.

 

Guilty of unlawful act manslaughter
Pitts (1842) and Curley (1909) Considered

Also here

Smith, R v [1959] CMAC

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

 

^[Causation - must be operating and substantial medical novus must be palpably wrong]
D stabbed V with a bayonet during a fight in barracks. V's friend took him to the first aid post, but on the way, he dropped V twice. At the first aid post the medical officer was busy and took some time to get to V who died about two hours after the stabbing.  Had he been given proper treatment he would probably have recovered.

 

Held: The treatment he was given was thoroughly bad and might well have affected his chances of recovery, but medical treatment correct or not does not break the chain of causation. If at the time of death the original wound is still an operating cause and a substantial cause, then death can be said to be a result of the wound albeit that some other cause is also operating.

Only when the second cause of death is so overwhelming as to make the original wound merely part of the history can it be said that death does not flow from the wound.

 

Guilty

Also here

White, R v [1910] CA

 

Red Triangle indicating "Must Know" material

 

 

 

 

^[Causation - but for test - causal link between actions and consequences must be shown]
D put cyanide into his mother's lemonade drink, but she died of heart failure before the poison could kill her. The answer to the question 'But for what the defendant did would she have died?' is 'No'. She would have died anyway.

 

Held:  He was acquitted of murder because he had not actually caused his mother's death.

 

Guilty of attempted murder.

Also here 

 

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