Actus Reus - Essay

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Actus Reus
Hill v Baxter (1958)
Court gave examples where a driver of a vehicle could not be said to be to doing the act of driving voluntarily. These included where a driver lost control of his vehicle because he was stung by a swarm of bees, was struck on the head by a stone or had a heart attack while driving. Larsonneur (1933)

The defendant had been ordered to leave the United Kingdom. She decided to go to Eire, but the Irish police deported her and took her back to the UK. She did not wish to go back and was certainly not doing this voluntarily. When she landed in the UK she was immediately arrested and charged with ‘being an alien to whom leave to land in the UK had been refused, was found in the UK’. She was convicted because she was an alien who had been refused leave to land and she was found in the UK. It did not matter that she had been brought back by the Irish police against her will. Omissions

Contractual Duty
Pitwood (1902)
A railway crossing keeper failed to shut the gates of the crossing before he went to lunch. A cart was crossing when it was hit by the train and a man was killed. The keeper was guilty of manslaughter as he had a contractual duty which he breached. A Duty Because of a Relationship (usually parent and child) Gibbins and Proctor (1918)

A child’s father and his mistress failed to feed the child, so that it died of starvation; they were guilty of murder. A Duty Which Has Been Taken on Voluntarily
Stone and Dobinson (1977)
Stone’s elderly sister came to live with the defendants. She became ill and unable to care for herself. She died. The two defendants were convicted of manslaughter through failing to care for her or summons help when she became helpless. A Duty Through one’s Official Position

Dytham (1979)
A police officer witnessed a violent attack on the victim, but took no steps to intervene or summon help; instead he drove away from the scene. The officer was guilty of wilfully and without reasonable excuse neglecting to perform his duty. A Duty Which Arises Because The Defendant has set in Motion a Chain of Events Miller (1983)

A squatter accidentally started a fire. When he realized this was he realised this he left the room and went to sleep in another room. He did not attempt to put out the fire or summon help. He was guilty of arson. A Modern Case of Omission

DPP v Santana-Bermudez (2003)
In this case a police woman, before searching the defendant’s pockets, asked him if he had any needles or other sharp objects on him. This defendant said ‘no’, but when the police officer put her hands in his pockets she was injured by a needle which caused bleeding.  The Divisional Court held that the defendant’s failure to tell her about the needle could amount to the Actus Reus for the purposes of an assault causing actual bodily harm. Causation

Factual Cause
Pagett (1983)
The defendant used his pregnant girlfriend as a shield while he shot at armed policemen. The police fired back and the girlfriend was killed. Pagett was convicted of her manslaughter. She would not have died ‘but for’ him using her as a shield in the shootout. White (1910)

The defendant put cyanide in his mother’s drink intending to kill her. She died of a heart attack before she could drink it the defendant did not cause her death; he was not guilty of murder, though he was guilty of attempted murder. Legal Causation

Blaue (1975)
A young woman was stabbed by the defendant. She was told she needed a blood transfusion to save his life but she refused to have one as she was a Jehovah’s Witness and her religion forbade blood transfusions. She died and the defendant was convicted of her murder. The fact that she was a Jehovah’s Witness made the wound fatal, but the defendant was still guilty because he had to take his victim as he found her. Medical Treatment

Smith (1959)
Two soldiers had a fight and one was stabbed in the lung by the other. The victim was carried to a medical centre by other soldiers but was...
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