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Homicide Notes

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E (1)



3 cases where an intervening human act does not break the chain of causation:

1. Non-voluntary conduct of 3rd parties - infants/mentally disordered; innocent agents given false information which D hopes will be acted on, that action is discounted e.g. Michael [1840] D's child in care of foster-mother, D wished child dead, handed poison to foster-mother saying it was medicine, mother left the medicine out where her own child swallowed it and died > neither the conduct of the child or the mother was sufficient to relieve D of causal responsibility. If intervening act is one of compulsion, necessity, duty/D applies duress to 3rd party/ D's conduct creates a duty on 3rd party to act e.g. Pagett

2. Conduct of doctors - under pressure; required to make rapid decisions; D's conduct does not need to be the sole or even main cause, only a significant contribution e.g. Cheshire [1991] "even though negligence in the treatment of the victim was the immediate cause of his death, the jury should not regard it as excluding responsibility of the accused unless the negligent treatment was so independent of [D's]
acts...that they should regard his contribution as insignificant"

3. Conduct/condition of victim - "egg shell skull" principle; refusal to accept medical treatment e.g. Blaue [1975] held that the thin skull rule applied to "the whole man, not just the physical man" Seems at odds with principle of autonomy?
Kennedy (No.2) [2007] - D handed syringe to B, who injected himself with heroin and died. Judged that B was an autonomous individual and made the decision to inject. Cannot be convicted of 'maliciously administering' as D did not administer. Self-injection not a crime, so no accessory liability either.




2 Williams [2010] - D was driving uninsured and without a license and killed V who stumbled in front of the car suddenly. D was convicted of causing death whilst driving without insurance and without a license. D's appeal against conviction would be dismissed notwithstanding that the prosecution had accepted that no fault, carelessness or lack of consideration in driving could be attributed to the defendant and where the evidence established that the deceased had stumbled into the defendant's path, thereby being a major cause of his own death. R v H [2011] - Reinforced Williams and held that no fault was required for the offence of causing death whilst uninsured and without a license.

Glanville Williams wrote in Finis for Actus Novus? (1989) "I may suggest to you reasons for doing something; I may urge you to do it, tell you I will pay you to do it, tell you it is your duty to do not cause you to do it...your volitional act is regarded (within the doctrine of responsibility) as setting a new 'chain of causation' going" In the event of multiple causes, D's act has to be significant and operating. In the case of natural events that contribute, D is held responsible unless the natural event was not reasonably foreseeable. Lord Hoffman defined this as "something extraordinary".




a) the victim must be a human being b) death must be caused through the act or omission of one or more human beings c) death must occur within the Queen's peace Human beings: foetuses not afforded full human status. Test of independent respiration to attain personhood; pre-birth injuries that cause post-birth death can be homicide.

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