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R v Smith [1959] 2 QB 35

By Oxbridge Law TeamUpdated 16/03/2024 12:52

Judgement for the case R v Smith


  • Criminal Law governs behavior harmful to society, defining offenses, procedures, and penalties. Evidence, including testimonies and documents, is crucial in legal proceedings, with admissibility determined by established rules.

  • Confession, a significant aspect, must be voluntary. Inducement leading to an involuntary confession renders it inadmissible.

    • Private soldier confessions to a sergeant-major raise questions about admissibility, focusing on voluntariness and inducement.

    • Subsequent confessions after police caution underwent scrutiny to assess voluntariness. Determining if the original inducement is spent involves evaluating whether factors leading to a confession have changed.

  • Homicide involves unlawfully causing death. Causation is essential, linking the defendant's actions to the victim's death. Incorrect treatment before death complicates causation, raising questions about external factors.

  • A break in the chain of causation, interruptions or events severing the link between actions and harm, is crucial in criminal law. Assessing whether a break occurred is vital in establishing criminal liability for actions leading to death.


  • Thomas Joseph Smith ("Appellant"), a private soldier, faced charges of murdering another soldier by stabbing during a barrack-room fight.

    • Following the altercation, the regimental sergeant-major assembled the company, indicating that they would not be released until the individuals involved were identified.

    • During this parade, the Appellant confessed to the stabbing in a statement to the sergeant-major, which was admitted as evidence during the trial.

    • The Appellant made another confession the next day to a sergeant of the Special Investigation Branch after receiving a caution.

  • The deceased soldier suffered two bayonet wounds during the fight, with one piercing the lung and causing hemorrhage.

    • While being transported to the medical reception station, the deceased was dropped twice.

    • At the reception station, it was revealed that the treatment administered was incorrect.

  • The Appellant was convicted, and the appeal raised concerns, including the alleged wrongful admission of confessions as evidence and a lack of proper direction from the court regarding causation.

  • The case involves a complex interplay of events, ranging from the initial fight to the subsequent confessions and issues related to the deceased's treatment, forming the basis of the Appellant's appeal.


  • In the judgment, it was held that the confession obtained by the regimental sergeant major was tainted by threat or inducement, rendering it inadmissible.

    • The court further determined that if the threat or promise influencing the first statement persisted when the second statement was made, then the latter was also inadmissible.

    • However, a crucial condition for the admissibility of the second statement was if the time between the two statements, the existing circumstances, and the caution given dissipated the original threat or inducement.

  • In this particular case, it was concluded that the effect of the original inducement had dissipated, making the second statement admissible as a voluntary statement.

  • The judgment held that at the time of death, the original wound remained an operating and substantial cause, allowing death to be properly attributed to the wound.

    • Despite the presence of some other contributing cause, the court deemed the original wound as a significant factor leading to the fatal outcome.


  • Criminal Law defines offenses, procedures, and penalties, with evidence playing a good role.

  • Confessions must be voluntary, and inducement makes them inadmissible.

  • In the case of Thomas Joseph Smith, a private soldier charged with murder, concerns arose about confessions given to a sergeant-major and subsequent confession after caution.

  • The judgment ruled the first confession inadmissible but deemed the second admissible.

    • It affirmed the original wound as a substantial cause of death, highlighting the complexities in criminal law, from admissibility challenges to causation considerations.

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For Further Study on R v Smith

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Criminal Law Notes
1,072 total pages
662 purchased

Criminal Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambrid...