Criminal Law notes
1.Voluntary act: Status offences – no conduct is required but the crime is committed when a certain state of affair exists or the defendant is in a certain condition or is of a particular status. R v Larsonneur (1933) – Appellant was brought involuntarily back to the UK where she was charged on being an ‘alien’. LCJ Hewart claimed the ‘circumstances are perfectly immaterial’ Winzar v Chief constable of Kent (1983) – drunk on a public highway. LJ Robert Goff claimed ‘it is enough for the commission of the offence if a person is in a public place or a highway, he is drunk and in those circumstances he is perceived to be there and to be drunk, It does not matter if the appellant is only momentarily in the highway’. Martin v State (1944)- Appellant was brought from his home to a public highway and arrested for using loud and profane language in a drunken condition. The trial judgment was reversed and the appellant was discharged. (Supreme Court of Alabama) 2.Ommissions- failure to act may result in the imposition of criminal liability in two situations: in conduct crimes the failure to act may itself, without more, constitute the crime. In result crimes the failure to act may contribute towards the harm specified in the offence and may thus, be deemed the requisite ‘act’ for the purposes of the offence. This will be so if the actor is under a duty to act. a)Duty to act.
Special relationship – may be professional or familial
R v Downes (1875) – A father failed to call a doctor for his sick child and instead relied on the power of prayer. It was held that there was a duty to act where there is a close family relationship. He was convicted of manslaughter. R v Evans (2009) – D failed to summon help for the victim who was suffering an overdose. It was held that there was no duty of care between the relationship of the defendant and the victim (half-sister) but there was a duty to act when he created or contributed to the creation of state of affair in which he knew, or ought to reasonably have known to become life-threatening. R v Shepherd (1862) – No duty to act is owed by a parent to her 18-year old “entirely emancipated” daughter. There would not be the same expectation of assistance as with a dependant child. However, nowadays, it is not a question of blood or marriage relationships but the assumption of responsibility that generates the reliance and expectation of assistance and hence the legal duty to act. Assumption of responsibility
R V Instan (1893) – The defendant lived with her 73-year old aunt who developed gangrene in her leg & could not fend for herself, move about or summon help. She knew about her aunt’s condition but did not seek medical assistance. Lord Colebridge claimed that ‘every legal duty is founded on a moral obligation’. R v Sinclair (1998) – The defendant and victim self-injected themselves with methadone. The victim became unconscious and the defendant took ineffectual remedial action before calling an ambulance the following morning. The defendant appealed and the appeal was allowed on the ground that a fuller direction of causation should have been given. L.J. Rose claimed that Sinclair owned a duty of care as he had been a close friend for many years and the two lived together as brothers, It was Sinclair who paid for and supplied the drugs and remained with the deceased throughout his period of unconsciousness. Contractual duty – the contract is evidence of an assumption of responsibility creating an expectation in the mind of others that the defendant will act. R v Pittwood (1902) – A railway gate-keeper, who was employed to keep a gate shut whenever a train was passing, was held liable for manslaughter when he forgot to shut the gate with the result that a train hit a hay-cart crossing and killed a man. Statutory duty - A breach of statutory duty will not always constitute the necessary ‘act’ for the purpose of an ulterior offence if further harm results from the breach of...
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