Law Notes - Criminal Law

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1) Issues of Criminal Liability: Actus Reus, Omissions, Causation, Mens Rea, Criminal Liability and Offences of Strict Liability

6. A duty which arises because the D has set a chain of events in motion R v Miller (1983) - D was squatting, slept with a cigarette, set fire to mattress. He moved to another room without getting help. Charged with Arson. AO2 Points on the Law of Omissions:  Should there be a Good Samaritan law and wider liability? o Yes: Modern, moral responsibilities o No: Could do more harm than good, could be abused to commit crime  There are difficulties in deciding when a duty does and does not exist o Decided by judge, if there is sufficient evidence, and jury, if it exists and has been broken o Makes the law able to expand for new situations o Creates uncertainty in the law  Should a person really be liable for failure to act when they have assumed a duty? o Is it harsh that someone who accepts someone into their home is then responsible? o Adults generally held to be responsible for their own lives o What if the adult is vulnerable?  Is there a justification for the statutory imposition of duties? o Public Policy Reasons Causation  Where a consequence has to be proved, the prosecution must show that o It was the factual cause o It was the legal cause o There was no ‘nouvus actus interveniens’

Actus Reus and Omissions  The Actus Reus is the physical element of a crime  It may be an act or a failure to act (an omission)  It must be voluntary on the part of the defendant  For some crimes the Actus Reus must result in a consequence o E.g. Assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm    Normal Rule for omissions is that this cannot make a person guilty of an offence No ‘Good Samaritan’ Law in this country 6 Exceptions where there is a duty to act: 1. A statutory duty 2. A contractual duty R v Pittwood (1902) – A railway crossing keeper failed to shut the gates resulting in a person being struck by a train 3. A duty because of a relationship R v Gibbins and Proctor (1918) – D and Partner responsible for D’s children. Singled out one girl and starved her to death. 4. A duty taken on voluntarily R v Stone and Dobinson (1977) - Stones sister came to live with D’s. Dobinson occasionally helped to wash and feed the V, she died of malnutrition. 5. A duty through ones official position R v Dytham (1979) - D was a police officer who watched a man being kicked to death before going off duty and doing nothing to help.





Factual Causation may be defined using the ‘but for’ test: Would the defendant have been harmed but for the defendants actions? (Yes, Not Guilty, No, Guilty) R v Pagett (1983) – D used pregnant girlfriend as human shield during police gunfight. But for his actions she wouldn’t have died – guilty. Legal Causation is used where more than act contributes to the consequence. The D is guilty if his act is more than a ‘slight or trifling link’ R v Kimsey (1996) – D lost control of car in a high speed car race with a friend. Other driver died. Act wasn’t substantial cause but more than minimal. What constitutes a break in the chain of causation? The Thin Skull Rule: The D must take the victim as he finds him: even if the V has a peculiarity which makes their injury more serious, the D will be liable for that more serious injury (no n.a.i) R v Blaue (1975) – V stabbed and needed a blood transfusion to save her life but was a Jehovah’s Witness. Refused, died, D convicted of murder. Medical Treatment: Unlikely to break the chain of causation unless it is so independent of the D’s act as to make it irrelevant (possible n.a.i) R v Smith (1959) – D stabbed V with a bayonet. On the way to hospital he was dropped, and at the medical centre was given wholly inappropriate treatment to his wound. It substantially affected his chances of survival but wound was substantial & so D was liable for his death. R v Jordan (1956) – The V had been stabbed in the stomach. His wounds were healing well, but the...
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