What Is It?
Physical Element of a crime.
It can be:
- An act
- An omission
- A state of affairs
Act or omission must be voluntary on the part of the defendant.
No control over actions - not committed the actus reus AUTOMATISM
Case Hill v Baxter (automatism)
- defendant crashed into another car - Dangerous Driving
- claimed to be sub consciouse driving - involuntary
State of Affairs
- where the defendant has been convicted through he did not act voluntary
Case: R v Larsonneur
- D is a french woman deported against her will from Ireland to England and was immediatly charged as an illegal alien, despite the fact she had not voluntarty come to England.
- D was a drunk man taken by the police fro a hospital to the road. Found guilty of being drunk on a motor way although he wasnt there voluntarily.
A failure to act cant usually make a person guilty. Exceptions allowing omission to be the actus reus is where there is a duty to act, this has 6 ways of happening:
- 1) a statutory duty
- 2) a contractual duty - lifeguard
- 3) a duty because of a relationship - parent and child
- 4) duty taken on voluntarity - elderly sibling living with you
- 5) a duty through ones official position - police man witness a fight
- 6) a duty arisen due to the defendan has set in motion a chain of events
unlawful act manslaughter cannot be committed by an omission - must be an act
gross negligence manslaughter can be committed by an omission
When consequence must be proven to find D guilty the prosecution has to show that:
- Defendants conduct was the factual cause of the consequence
- Defendants conduct was the in law cause of the consequence
- There was no intervening act which broke the chain of causation
- The consequence would not have happend 'but for' the defendants conduct.
Case: Pagett (1983)
used his pregnant girlfriend as a shield in a police shoot out, police shot back at the man and the girl was killed, Pagett convicted of manslaighter as she would not have died 'but for' D using her as a shield.
Case: White (1910)
D put cyanide in his mums drink intending to kill. she died of a heart attack before she could drink it. D did'nt cause her death, not guilty of murder but attempted murder.
Cause in Law
- May be more than one person whose act may have contributed to the consequence
- D can be guilty if there conduct must be more that a minimum cause
Thin Skull Rule
- Take the victim as he finds him
- If the victim has something unusual about them eg a thin skull meaning an injury is more seriouse D is liable for the more seriouse injury.
- Punch a man with a thin skull which would cause brusing on a 'normal person' more serious - D is liable.
Young woman stabbed, JW so wouldnt have a blood transfusion as so died, D guilty because he had to take his victim as he found them.
Chain Of Causation
- must be a direct link from defendants conduct to the consequence
- if something eles haooend after the defendants act or omission and is sufficiently separate from the defendants conduct - break the chain
Intervening Act: sufficiently independant and serious
- act of a third party
- victims own act
- natural but unpredictable event
Example: D injured V and V is taken to hospital in an ambulance. On the way the ambulance is in a crash and V gets seriouse injuries and dies. Major intervering act defendant not liable for Vs death.
Victim's Own Act:
- D causes V to react in a forseeable way, injury of V is caused by D
- V reaction is unreasonable may break the chain
Chain Of Causation: Medical Treatment
Medical treatment is unlikely to break the chain unless:
- it is so independant of the defendants acts
- in itself so potent in causing death
- defendants acts are insignificant
Case: Smith (1959) - 2 soldiers had a fight, 1 was stabbed. V carried to a medical centre and staff gave artificial respiration (pressed on his chest) injury worsened and he died. D was still guilty of Vs death as the wound was the overwhelming cause of death.
Case: Cheshire (1991) - D shot V in thigh and stomach. Given a tracheotomy (help him breath) died from rare complications not spotted be doctor. D still liable
Case: Jordan (1956) - V stabbed in stomach. Allergic reaction to antibiotics given - died. Actions of doctors were the intervening act causing death. D not guilty