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THE UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, JAMAICA
THE FACULTY OF LAW
CRIMINAL LAW I
CAUSATION
______________________________________________________________
INTRODUCTION
Where the actus reus of a crime includes specific consequences e.g. the crime of Murder - the consequence being death, it must be shown that the Defendant caused the victim's death (although the defendant's act need not be the sole or the main cause of death). A common approach of the courts has been to assert that causation is a question of fact to be answered by the application of common sense.
The cornerstone of the law on causation is that the prosecution must show that the defendant’s act was the substantial and operating cause of the harm. The term ‘substantial’ makes it clear that the defendant’s act need not be the sole cause but the act must be more than just a de minimis or a slight contribution to the result.
Two matters need to be considered:
(i) did the defendant in fact cause the victim's death – that is factual causation and if so
(ii) can he be held to have caused it in law- legal causation
A) Causation in fact (but for test was established) R V WHITE
To establish causation in fact, the "But for" Test established in R v White [1910] 2 KB 124 must be applied. For the ‘but for’ test to uphold, it must be proved that, but for the defendant's acts, the consequence would not have occurred. Note this is subject to the exception of innocent agents (which will be discussed later in the “parties to a crime” lecture. )
R v White [1910] 2 KB 124
The defendant placed poison in a glass containing his mother's drink. She drank the contents of the glass, but died of heart failure before the poison could take effect. The defendant was charged with murder but convicted of attempted murder. With regard to causation in fact, the defendant's act in placing poison in his mother's drink did not in any way cause her death thus it was not the factual cause of death.

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