Causation Revision Notes

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G153 Revision
Must know:
be able to understand the ideas of factual and legal causation,
know about the different ways in which the chain may be broken,
have studied a series of relevant cases,
understand the problems with this area of law,
be able to apply the law to a case study and draw sensible conclusions.
In criminal law it is often important that a particular effect is caused by the defendant. For
example: assault causing actual bodily harm. Causation is an important general principle.
Someone can only be liable for an offence if their acts are both the factual and the legal cause
of the outcome.
Factual Causation
The "but for" test: would V have died if it had not been for D's actions.
White 1910: The defendant put some poison in his mother's milk with the intention of
killing her. The mother took a few sips and went to sleep and never woke up. Medical
reports revealed that she died from a heart attack and not the poison. Point of law:
The defendant was not liable for her murder as his act of poisoning the milk was not
the cause of death. He was liable for attempt. This case established the 'but for' test.
I.e. would the result have occurred but for the actions of the defendant? If the answer
is yes the defendant is not liable.
Dalloway 1847: The defendant was driving a horse and cart down a road without holding on
to the reins. A child ran in front of the cart and was killed. The defendant was not liable as he
would not have been able to stop the cart in time even if he had been holding the reins.
The defendant was charged with gross negligence manslaughter for his involvement in an
incident involving a train becoming derailed. The defendant was the foreman of some works
being carried out on the track. He misread the train time-table and ordered the work to be
done at a time when the train was due. In addition the lookout man was not standing at the
correct distance to give an adequate warning and the driver was not paying sufficient
attention to stop the train in time. The defendant argued that if the lookout man and driver
were doing their job correctly the incident would not have occurred. Held:The defendant's
conviction was upheld. The defendant's action need not be the only cause. Liability can arise
provided the defendant's act was more than a minimal cause.
Did not directly cause the outcome
This seems logical but doesn't always break the chain. The court have decided that the
interfering act must be unforeseeable if it is to break the chain of causation.
Pagett 1983: He used the girl as a shield as he came out of the flat and walked along the
balcony. The police saw a figure walking towards them but could not see who it was. The
appellant fired shots at the police and the police returned fire. The police shot the girl who
died. The appellant was convicted of possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life,
kidnap of the mother and daughter, attempted murder on the father and two police officers

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He appealed against the manslaughter conviction on the
issue of causation. Held: Conviction upheld. The firing at the police officers caused them to fire
back. In firing back the police officers were acting in self -defence. His using the girl as a shield
caused her death.
Victim tried to escape and caused themselves harm
This cover situations where the D has scared the V so badly that they have tried to escape and
has been injured in the attempt.…read more

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Blaue 1975: The defendant stabbed an 18 year old girl four times when she refused to have
sexual intercourse with him. She was a practising Jehovah's witness and refused to have a
blood transfusion which would have saved her life. The defendant was convicted of
manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and appealed arguing that the girl's
refusal to accept the blood transfusion was a novus actus interveniens breaking the chain of
causation, alternatively that Holland was no longer good law.…read more

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But for' his actions the V would never have been in that situation and therefore
would not have died.)
Some people may argue that that the person who starts the events off should always be fully
responsible for the consequence because (if they didn't do it then the end result or any of the
other events would not have happened.…read more


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