Factual Causation

Causation: Defined as the link between the 'action' of the D and the 'consequence' that occurs. Furthermore, the rules of causation are essential when proving fatal, non fatal and other result crimes.

1. There are 2 types of Causation

a. Factual Causation - 'But for' test

b. Legal Causation 

a. Factual Causation

  • The D must be the FACTUAL cause of the victims injuries
  • This is proved using the 'but for' test

'but for test' - would the consequence have occured 'but for' the Defendants actions. If yes, the result would have occurred in any event, the defendant is not liable. If the answer is no, the defendant is liable as it can be said that their action was a factual cause of the result.

R v Pagett

  • used girlfriend as a shield to protect himself during police shootout. Police shot and killed the girlfriend

[BUT FOR his actions, the girlfriend wouldn't have died]


R v White

  • D decided to kill mum to gain inheritance -> put poison in her drink but died of a heart attack before consuming too much

[It couldn't be proved that the D's actions were the factual case of his mothers death. 'BUT FOR' his actions. the mother still would've died.]

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Legal Causation

b. Legal Causation - 'De minimus' Principle.

  • Once factual causation is established, legal causation must show that the D's act/omission has legally caused the crime
  • D's actions do not need to be the main cause of the harm but mjust contribute is some way to the consequence.

'De minimus' Principle: The D actions must be more than a minimal cause of the crime but need not be a substantial cause

R v Kimsey

  • D involved in car chase with friend -> she lost control of the car and other dirver was killed

[she didn't have to be the main cause of the death as long as she was a 'more than minimal' cause of death. It was said there needed to be 'more than a slight or trifling link' to find her liable]

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Legal Causation

Thin Skull Rule

  • Cover situations where there's something unusual about the victim
  • Covers exitsting medicial conditons and relgious beliefs

'succeptibility of the victim' - does not break the chain of causation as you have to take your vicitm as you find them 

A Defendant will be liable for the full extent of the injuries they cause even if the V has a medical condition that makes injuries worse.

R v Blaue

  • D stabbed V
  • V needed blood transfusion due to relgious beliefs
  • V died and medics said she wouldn't have died if she had the blood transfusion

[D liable and convicted for manslaughter - D had to take victim as he found her including any relgious beliefs she held]

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Breaks in the Chain of Causation

2. Breaks in the Chain of Causation

Novus Actus Interveniens (intervening acts)

[sufficently separate and sufficiently serious and unreasonable]

a. Acts of 3rd Parties

Medical treatment - The only time medical treatment will break the chain of causation is if it is 'PALPABLY WRONG'

R v Jordan

  • V stabbed and taken to hospital.
  • V showed evidence of an allergy to pain killers but they administered in in a larger dose
  • Docs later found out about V allergies and tried to flush drugs out his body
  • Docs did it poorly, his organ drowned and victim died.

[Medical treatment was palpably wrong and broke the chain of causation.[OG D was no longer responsible for V death] 


R v Smith *******

  • D and V (soldiers)
  • V stabbed and dropped twice whilst carried to medical officer who failed to apprecaite the severity of his injuries. After dely, treatment didn't help.
  • V died of stab wounds.

[ The Doc wasn't an intervening act as the stab wound was still the operating and substantial cause of death]

R v Cheshire

  •  D shot a man in the stomach and thigh.
  •  Man was taken to hospital where he was operated on and developed breathing difficulties. The hospital gave him a tracheotomy (a tube inserted into the windpipe connected to a ventilator).
  • Several weeks later his wounds were healing and no longer life threatening, however, he continued to have breathing difficulty and died from complications arising from the tracheotomy.

[His conviction was upheld despite the fact that the wounds were not the operative cause of death. Intervening medical treatment could only be regarded as excluding the responsibility of the defendant if it was so independent of the defendant's act and so potent in causing the death, that the jury regard the defendant's acts as insignificant. Since the defendant had shot the victim this could not be regarded as insignificant]

 NOTE; switching off life-support machine doesn't break the chain of causation (R v Malcherek & Steel)

b. The Victim 

The V may break the chain of causation if they act in an 'unreasonable manner. The chain of causation is NOT broken if the action of the D is reasonably forseeable.

R v Roberts

  • D was giving a lift to V and started to touch her
  • V jumped out the moving car to escape as she thought she was going to be *****

[D held liable for injuries as they were a forseeable result of his actions]

R v Marjoram

  • D and others forced open V's hostel room door and burst into the room
  • V fell/jumped from the window and sustained serious injuries

[His fear of the group and his only exit being the window was reasonably forseeable. D's found guilty]


c. Unpredictable events 

If a natural event like being struck by lightning ovvurs, it is NOT reasonably forseeable therefore will break the chain of causation

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