AQA A2 Law Unit 3 Notes

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Unit 3 ­ Offences Against the Person
Murder and Voluntary Manslaughter
The Actus Reus of Murder
The definition of murder is ­ "the unlawful killing of a reasonable creature in
being under the Queen's Peace" Lord Coke.
A foetus in utero and a person on life support is not a reasonable creature in
being and therefore cannot be murdered.
Under the Queen's Peace means not during active war.
A foetus in utero cannot be murdered unless it has had an existence separate
from its mother (AG Reference No.3)
A person who is brain dead cannot considered a reasonable creature in being
and therefore cannot be murdered (Malcherek)
The actus reus of murder can either be an act or an omission. In most cases, a
failure to act (omission) cannot amount to criminal liability. There are
exceptions to this however, an omission can amount to the actus reus of a
crime where the law recognises a duty to act.
There are 4 main situations where such a duty exists and failing to act, can
give rise to criminal liability.
A duty through relationship (Gibbins and Proctor)
A contractual duty (Pittwood)
A duty which has been taken on voluntarily (Stone and Dobinson)
A duty to minimise the harmful effects of a situation you have created (Miller)
The 3 elements required for causation in law are:
Factual causation
Legal causation

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Page 2

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No novus actus interveniens
Factual causation is easily established using the `but for' test or the `Sin Qua
Non' principle which means `without which there is nothing'.…read more

Page 3

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If the D foresaw that death or serious injury would occur in achieving their aim,
they may have `oblique intent'.
In Nedrick, the Court of Appeal suggested that the jury consider two
1. Was death or serious injury a virtually certain result of D's act?
2. Did D foresee this?
If the answer to both of these is `yes' then the jury can infer that D had
necessary mens rea for murder.…read more

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Was D's act the legal cause of V's death? (Not sole but more than trivial
and more than a slight or trifling link between D's conduct and V's death)
4. Was the chain of causation broken? (Novus Actus Interveniens)
5. Did D set about as far as possible to cause death? Or really serious
6. Did D set about as far as possible to cause really serious harm?
7. Was death or serious injury a virtually certain consequences of D's act?
8.…read more

Page 5

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D's loss of self control was attributable to fear of serious violence by the
V against D or another recognised person (the fear trigger)
b) Something said or done which constituted circumstances of an
extremely grave character and caused D to have a justifiable sense of
being seriously wronged (the anger trigger)
The fear trigger is to be disregarded if D induced it themselves of incited the
use of violence (s.55.…read more

Page 6

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State ­ the defendant's act must result from a loss of control
Explain ­ need not be sudden but under s.54 it cannot be out of a `considered
desire for revenge'.…read more

Page 7

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D will not be convicted of murder if at the time of the killing D was suffering
from an abnormality of mental functioning which
arose from a recognised medical condition
substantially impaired D's ability to: understand the nature of his conduct,
form a rational judgement or exercise self control
and provides an explanation for D's act in doing the killing
4 parts needed are ­
1. Abnormality of mental functioning
2. Arising from a recognised medical condition
3.…read more

Page 8

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A question of fact and degree for the jury, not a medical issue
R v Lloyd ­ `the impairment must not be total but it must be more than trivial
or minimal'
What needs to be substantially impaired?
The defendant's ability to:
1. Understand the nature of his conduct
2. Form a rational judgement
3. Exercise self control
Understanding the nature of his conduct covers situations where D's in an
automatic state and unaware of his actions, as well as if D suffers from
delusions.…read more

Page 9

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If the defendant's mental functioning would not have made a difference to his
behaviour, the plea will be unsuccessful.
Structuring an Answer
State ­ D must be suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning arising
from a recognised medical condition that substantially impairs D's ability to
exercise self control, form a rational judgement and understand the nature of
his conduct
Explain ­ recognised medical condition is a broad term including psychiatric
and physical conditions that affect the mind.…read more

Page 10

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The defendant must do an unlawful act ­ with the necessary mens rea
2. The act must be dangerous on an objective test
3.…read more



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