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Omissions Notes

GDL Law Notes > GDL Criminal Law Notes

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A more recent version of these Omissions 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:

Revision: Criminal



The general rule: there is no general duty to act to prevent harm o


R v Wm Smith: 'Omission, without a duty, will not create an indictable offence'

To secure a conviction based on an omission, it must be proved that:

1. The accused was under a legal duty to act;

2. The accused breached that duty;

3. The breach caused the actus reus of the offence to occur;

4. Should the offence so require, that the accused had the requisite MR

5. The crime is one which is capable of being committed by an omission (act not result offences)

A Legal Duty to Act
? A statutory duty


Most common: s6(4) Road Traffic Act 1988: offence to fail to provide a specimen of breath

? A Special Relationship


E.g. doctors, parents


R v Gibbons & Proctor: deliberately starved child to death (mother guilty based on breach of statutory duty)


Re A (Conjoined Twins): both children would die without operation: operation could save one twin but parents wouldn't give their consent - judge held that they had a legal duty to the twin that could be saved


R v Hood: wife died 3 weeks after a fall: D had failed to summon medical assistance

? Voluntary Assumption of a Duty of Care


R v Nicholls: 'if a person chooses to undertake the care of a person who is helpless either from infancy, medical illness or other infirmity, he is bound to execute that responsibility' - Duty owed


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