Causation (criminal)

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  • Created by: Nikki
  • Created on: 30-04-15 17:56

Causation in fact and law

causation relevant in result crimes --> less so in conduct crimes

'but for' test of causation in fact

narrowness to way in which causation exists in law

  • brute luck --> e.g. here I am --> just something that exists as fact --> not relevant in law
  • situational luck --> luck whether it be bad or good of the situation that I'm in in --> can only sometimes be relevant --> sometimes relevant in law (not normally)
  • in law we focus on outcome luck

cause must be substantial (having some substance) but need not be main cause

  • simply have to show that someone contributed in a substantial way
  • can be more than one substantial cause
  • R v Smith (1959) --> was cause mere 'historical setting' for the real cause(s)?
  • Cato --> as long as outside de minimis range it is enough
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Natural or abnormal events

Natural or abnormal events

  • Do no break chain of causation when:
    • they are normal, foreseeable event
    • when I 'harness' nature
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Third party interventions

Third party interventions

  • free deliberate and informed actions by TP do break chain of causation
  • might be possible that despite TP intervention D still substantial cause
  • Not free?
    • Pagett (1983) --> gunman shielded himself with girlfriend (V) --> police shot at D but shot V --> D charged with manslaughter and police not charged --> alhtough police officer shooting at V was substantial cause, intervention of police was not completely free since acting under threat posed by Pagett
    • Blaue (1975)
  • Not informed?
    • Saunders & Archer (1573) --> 2 D = husband and lover --> plot to give poisoned apple to wife --> wife gave it to children --> husband says apples aren't good for children --> wife's action didn't break chain of causation as not informed
  • Arguable wrong? --> Environmental Agency v Empress Car Co (1998)
    • Hoffmann --> chain of causation broken only if TP act is abnormal and extraordinary --> trespasser turing on tap was normal and familiar fact of life even if unforeseeable
    • judgement doesn't really seem to be right
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V's reaction

In general must be unreasonable, unforeseeable, extraordinary, daft etc to break chain of causation

Roberts --> V jumped from moving car when D makes suggestive remarks and tries to remove her coat while driving --> injured --> chain not broken

Dhaliwal (2006) --> domestic violence --> suicide --> reasonably foreseeable? --> more likely to be if ongoing for longer period etc --> in this case didn't need to decide this point but jduge held that int his case it was unexpected reaction --> might not be so in different case

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Medical treatment

Jordan (1956) --> V stabbed, taken to hospital, died 8 days later --> original wound had almost healed when treatment that was 'not normal' and 'palpably wrong' broke causal chain between stabbing and death --> V had been given drug to which he had shown himself intolerant

Smith (1959) --> V stabbed in mass brawl --> dropped twice on way to hosptial in confusion --> at hospital, V's pierced lung not noticed --> treatment 'thoroughly bad' as had been 75% chance of recovery, but causal chain not broken --> Jordan case distinguished as a 'very particular case dependent upon its exact facts'

Smith --> 

  • if D act still operating and substantial cause, chain not broken
  • only if second cause is so overwhelming as to make original wound merely part of history can it be said that death does not flow from wound

A doctor's act is in one sense 'free deliberate and informed' but it does not break the chain of causation (barring exceptional cases) because it is doctor's duty to intervene (so not really free?)

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Conclusion

Proof of causation often said to be an essential precondition of criminal liability 

Reason to doubt generaltiy of that requirement, notably in respect of accomplice liability and vicarious criminal liability

Preferable to argue that liability should be negative, in general, by voluntary intervening act of another?

Challenge to re-examine the intuitions that lead judges and others to their conclusions, with a view to constructing a law that ensures that the courts respect various principles of the law

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