Causation criminal law revision

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In result crimes (where a consequence is part of the actus reus) it is necessary
to prove the accused's conduct caused the required consequence.
It is for the jury to decide if the accused caused the prohibited result following
a prohibited action.
Ashworth: argued that ­ since punishment is desert-based, there is no moral
basis for differentiating between lolling and attempting to kill. What an actor
deserves punishing for is what he tried to do.
D must be shown to be the factual cause and the legal cause.
Factual causation:
Established by applying the `but for' test: the consequence would not have
occurred `but for' the accused's actions.
If D is not a factual cause, he cannot also be a legal cause. If the consequence
would have occurred anyway, or the defendant's conduct made no difference,
he/she will not be a cause.
White (1910): D poisoned his mother's drink with intent to kill her. She died
after taking some of the drink but medical evidence found that the cause of
death was an unrelated heart attack.
D was charged with murder but was acquitted, as he had not caused his
mother's death in fact. He was convicted of attempted murder instead.
If the consequence would still have occurred, but not when it did, but for the
defendant's conduct, factual causation will still be established.
Legal cause:
The defendant's act need not be the sole cause of the resulting harm, but it
must be more than minimal.
Where a person suffers injury at the hands of another, the latter will only be
the legal cause of that injury if the injury was attributable to the wrongfulness
of the act rather than simply the fact of the act.
When an unusual turn of events occur so that other causal contributions
intervene, common sense tells s us to pin responsibility upon the person most
to blame.
Human causal instrumentality is traced only through voluntary action. The
factual and legal cause of an event will be traced through an involuntary action
until a voluntary action or abnormal event is found.

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Examples of causal sequences giving rise to causation problems:
Subsisting conditions:
Medical conditions: where the victim suffers from a subsisting
medical condition which renders him particularly vulnerable to the
injury inflicted, the principle applied is that D must take V as he is. D
need not know of the condition (thin skull principle).
Other subsisting conditions: D will usually bear the responsibility if
a trivial injury is converted into a fatal one due to the failure of an
ambulance crew to attend V.…read more

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Environment Agency v Empress Car Co (1999) ­ the defendant
company stored diesel in a tank which had an unlocked tap on
it. The tap was opened by a person unknown and the entire
contents ran down the drain into the river. The charge was
causing pollution and the issue was whether the act of the
unknown person broke the chain of causation.…read more

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V's death. This didn't exclude D's
`unless the negligent treatment was so independent of his acts,
and in itself so potent in causing death that [the jury] could
regard the contribution made by his acts as insignificant'. Per
Beldam LJ, at 677.…read more


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