Omission revision notes

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Law G153 Revision
You will be able to understand the idea of actus reus
You will be able to identify situations where an omission will be enough for the
actus reus of a crime.
You will be able to use at least one case to support your arguments.
You will be able to explain at least four critical points about this topic.
Should and may know
You should be able to use a wide range of case law in any application problem.
You should be able to identify other types of actus reus.
You should be able to explain a wide range of critical points on this topic.
You should be able to explain the concept of release from duty.
You may be able to extend your reading on this topic.
You may be able to appreciate the link to Gross Negligence Manslaughter.
You may be able to carry out internet research to discover recent case law on the topic.
Generally speaking law in England does not base criminal liability on a failure to act however
there are some exceptions to this.
Where laid down by statute
Where there is a contractual duty
Public office creates duty to act
Special relationship
Voluntarily responsible
Creates a dangerous situation and doesn't rectify
Where laid down by statute
Where it is laid down in statute that a failure to do something is a criminal offence.
Case: DPP v Greener, (dangerous dogs act): The defendant was the owner Staffy. He had
left the dog chained in an enclosure in his back garden. The dog had strained and bent the
clip releasing its chain. It had escaped from the enclosure and entered a nearby garden
where it bit the face of a young child. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 provides that if the
owner of a dog allows it to a place which isn't public and isn't invited their and while it is
there it injures any person, he is guilty of an offence. It was held by the Divisional Court
that an offence under s3(3) could be committed by omission. The word "allows" included
taking and omitting to take a positive step. In the present case the defendant had failed to

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Similar precautions had been taken in the past but they were
obviously inadequate as the fastening was not good enough and the enclosure not secure.
Contractual duty to act
If a person owes a contractual duty to act, then a failure to meet this contractual duty may
result in criminal liability.
Case Pittwood (1902) (also in case notes): The defendant was employed by a railway company
to man the gate at a level crossing.…read more

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Guilty of wilful neglect, not guilty of manslaughter the
mental element of the offence had not been established
Stone and Dobinson 1977 : (also in case notes)Ted Stone was 67, totally blind, partially deaf
had no appreciable sense of smell and was of low intelligence. He lived with his housekeeper
and mistress of 8 years, Gwendolyn Dobinson aged 43 who was described as ineffectual and
inadequate. Ted's sister Fanny came to live with them.…read more

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Court of Appeal rejected on appeal on the bases it was impossible to see how they could not
have drawn the interference that D and E intended V's death.
Problematic Omission cases
Khan & Khan 1998: Duty of care Facts: D and E were drug dealers in Birmingham. V, a 15
year old prostitute, went to a flat where they supplied her with heroin. She ingested a
large amount, lapsed into a coma and was obviously in need of medical assistance.…read more

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Punishing omissions infringes individual freedoms?
Does human life override this?
France and the good Samaritan law
Huge number of potential defendants.
When does voluntary duty end?
If medical treatment is futile, there is no obligation on a doctor to continue it.…read more


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