A more recent version of these Causation notes – written by Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students – is available here.
The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our GDL Criminal Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:
Factual Causation Sina qua non but for test R v White Gradual poisoning of mother who then died of other causes Held: convicted of attempted murder - the cause of her death was not, factually, his actions Multiple Causes The significant contribution test: R v Dyson V suffering meningitis from which he died, however the father's beatings accelerated death as he fractured his skull Held: murder conviction. The actions were a leading cause of death
? Lord Alverstone: the fact that the child would have died in any event is not an answer to murder charge R v Cato D injected V several times with heroin at their request which caused V's respiratory failure Held: unlawful act manslaughter
? Lord Widgery CJ: causation satisfied where it is outside of the de minimis range & is "effectively bearing on the acceleration of the...victim's death"
Legal Causation D's acts must be the substantial and operative cause of the result crime R v Dalloway D driving horse & cart without holding reins and a child killed who ran in front of it Held: D's acts were incidental to the death - he wouldn't have been able to stop anyway. The cause of death must be a culpable act - here it was not holding the reins & this did not satisfy legal causation
R v Hayward D chased wife outside shouting threats at her and she collapsed and died - suffering from a thyroid condition which meant she was more vulnerable Held: unlawful act manslaughter - you take your victim as you find them so her vulnerability did not override legal causation R v Clarke & Morabir V had uneasy relationship with lodgers. He was attacked in his flat & neighbours heard noises which they felt were from one of the lodgers at the time. The lodgers called an ambulance. Resus caused some damage but most injuries in line with assault Held: causation is a matter of fact for the jury, where the trial judge erred, but conviction safe R v Hughes D driving without insurance & was involved in a collision killing V. The crash was entirely the fault of V Held: (CA) conviction (SC) Road Traffic Act offence - causing death by driving a motor vehicle when one is uninsured. SC construed the statute on the word 'cause' to mean liability will only be imposed by an act or omission of D amount to more than a de minimis cause of death. CA's ruling would have made D liable for deaths of any passengers in V's car even if he had survived.
? Legal causation appears to have something to do with moral fault
Intervening Acts Intervening act = a novus actus interveniens
? Professor Hart: "free, deliberate and informed intervention of a second person, who intends to exploit the situation created by the first, but is not acting in concert with him, is normally held to relieve the first actor of criminal responsibility" People v Lewis D shot V which would have been fatal in a relatively short time, but V slit his own throat Held: legal causation was satisfied as the shooting was the substantial &
operative cause R v Malcherek D stabbed V who was then put on a life support machine which the doctors eventually switched off Held: legal causation satisfied by the stabbing
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