Jane and Steve have been married for five years. Steve lost his job a year ago and has been unable to find employment since then. Jane is a successful hairdresser. Steve has lost his self-confidence and has become so depressed that his doctor has placed him on medication. One evening Jane arrives home at midnight and Steve instantly accuses her of having an affair. Jane denies it, laughs and says, “it would serve you right if I were, you’ve become the most boring man I have ever known” Steve falls into a depressed state again and goes to sleep that night by himself in the spare room. Two nights later Jane is again very late arriving home. Steve asks for an explanation but Jane just laughs at him and tells him not to be so jealous. Immediately Steve flies into a rage and punches Jane as hard as he can in the face. She falls backwards, striking her head on the corner of a table and dies. Discuss Steve’s liability for Jane’s death. [50 marks]
The Actus reus for murder is the “Unlawful killing of another human being under the Queen’s Peace.” The mens rea is “malice aforethought”. This is intention to cause death or Grievous bodily harm. Steven has both the mens rea for murder because he has intention to cause GBH. We can prove this because he punched Jane “as hard as he could” in the face. In order to find Steve liable for Jane’s death, the prosecution must prove that Jane’s death was a result of Steve, the defendant’s act. To establish causation the actions of the defendant must be a factual and a legal cause of the defendant’s death. To prove the factual cause the court would use the “but for” test. Here it would be held that Jane would not have died, “but for” the act of Steve. The “but for” test can be seen in the case of Pagett. The court could also prove legal causation in that the act was “reasonably foreseeable, i.e. it was likely that if the defendant hit Jane she could fall and hit her head. There are two possible defences available to Steve in this...
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