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Deciding Whether The Rules Of Causation Are Weighted Too Far Against The Interests Of The Defendant

1408 words - 6 pages

Deciding Whether the Rules of Causation Are Weighted Too Far Against the Interests of the Defendant

When deciding on a case of death, the courts use the ‘but for’ test,
i.e. but for the defendants act, the death would not have happened. In
the case of White 1910:

The accused had intended to murder his mother, he had poison in a
glass ready for her but she suddenly died from a heart failure, she
died due to the heart failure and not the poison. The defendant could
only be liable for attempted murder but it is clear that he had
desired it to happen. He could not, therefore be found guilty of
murder. When deciding what the legal cause of death is, two more
issues are looked at more closely:

Firstly, did the act of the defendant play a significant (more than a
minimal role) part in causing the death of the victim? Secondly, has
any other event occurred to break the chain of causation? It has been
determined that an event of this kind needs to be something completely
unforeseeable.

It’s not thought unforeseeable that the police might return the fire
of a gunman. In the case of Pagett 1983: The accused was being pursued
by the police and had forcibly taken his pregnant girlfriend captive
after injuring her mother and stepfather. He later came out of one the
flats, using his girlfriend as a shield. He then fired his shot gun at
2 officers. The policeman fired back and the girl was hit by 3 bullets
and killed. The defendant was found guilty of her manslaughter but
appealed against this, arguing that the judge had misdirected the jury
by stating that he had been the cause of the victim’s death, not the
police officers that fired the bullets. The Court of Appeal found that
there was no misdirection.

It is also considered unforeseeable that the victim that the victim
might try to escape. Where in the case of Pitts 1942: the defendant
was held to be responsible for his death when he jumped into a river
to escape further violent assaults. Also in the case of Mackie 1973, a
father frightened his 3 year old son so severely that the child fell
down the stairs and was killed. In another case, Williams 1992: the
prosecution claimed that the deceased had jumped from a moving car
because he was in fear of being robbed. It was alleged that his wallet
had flown into the air as he had jumped. The victim was travelling to
a festival and had ‘hitched’ a lift from the defendants. He then
jumped out 5 miles further on and was killed. The occupants were held
liable originally for the death of the victim, but appealed. The Court
Of Appeal stressed that the conduct of the victim had to be impartial
to the threat of harm and the conviction thus was quashed, as the
trail judge had not directed the jury in this fashion.

It is foreseeable that others might be involved in the death, like for
...

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