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S.18 and S.20 of the Offences Against Person Act (1861) (Summary)

The offences of wounding and causing GBH (grievous bodily harm) are to be found in S. 18 and S. 20 of the Offences Against Person Act (1861). The sections read as follow: –
S. 18 “Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously by any means whatsoever wound or cause any grievous bodily harm to any person, . . .  with intent, . . .  to do some . . .  grievous bodily harm to any person, or with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any person, shall be guilty of felony, and being convicted thereof shall be liable . . .  to be kept in penal servitude for life . . .”
S. 20 “Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously wound or inflict any grievous bodily harm upon any other person, either with or without any weapon or instrument, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable . . .  to be kept in penal servitude . . .”
Between the two, S. 20 is the lesser offence and S. 18 is the more serious offence and an offender if convicted under S. 1…

Crime XXXXXX - Involuntary Manslaughter VI

In R v P & O European Ferries (Dover) (1991) (Corporate Manslaughter) we look into the possibility of holding a company responsible for the reckless act(s) of its employee(s) which subsequently leads to the death of those who have entrusted the company with their lives (corporate manslaughter). The captain of a ferry and five of his crew members failed to close the main loading doors on a cross-channel ferry and as a result a few hundred passengers lost their lives.
The first question we need to ask was why an action was brought in criminal law and not in tort (civil law), where the chances are higher that compensation would be paid out for example see Ward v Tesco Stores Ltd (1976) (physical injury) or Barrett v Ministry of Defense (1995) (loss of life)?
Secondly, does vicarious liability (a legal doctrine that imposes a liability on another by virtue of a legal relationship or a special relationship with the tortfeasor (the person who committed the tort)) extend to criminal law? T…

Crime XXXXXIX - Involuntary Manslaughter V

In R v Seymour (1983) the accused had a heated argument with his girlfriend and subsequently, according to him, tried to push or force her car out of the way with his eleven-ton lorry. The victim got out of the car but was crushed between the car and the lorry. The accused was charged and convicted of manslaughter.
It was held that, with regards to death that is caused by reckless driving, the test that is to be applied is the test in R v Lawrence (1981) i.e. the question that was to be asked was whether the defendant was driving in a manner that gave rise to an obvious and serious risk and whether the defendant gave any thought to the risk or having given it some thought dismissed it. However, the risk that is caused by the manner in which the defendant is driving must be very high.
In Kong Cheuk Kwan v The Queen (1985) (Privy Council) the appellants were drivers of two hydrofoils that collided in perfect weather and resulted in the loss of lives. It was decided that the test that was …

Crime XXXXXVIII – Constructive Manslaughter XVII – Mens Rea II

With regards to the mental element or mens rea that needs to be satisfied in order to establish or obtain a conviction for constructive manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter all the prosecution needs to do is to establish that there was an intention to commit an unlawful act i.e. that the defendant intended to commit the unlawful act.
There is no requirement for the defendant to foresee that some harm may result from his or her actions. Let’s revert back to the example of throwing stones through the shop window we gave earlier. It is sufficient that the defendant intended to throw stones through the shop window.
If one of the stones goes through the glass window, knocks over a lit oil lamp and subsequently starts a fire and two workers that are sleeping in the shop at the time die as a result, the defendant has satisfied the mental element or mens rea required to establish or convict for constructive manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter regardless of the fact that the defendant…

Crime XXXXXVII – Constructive Manslaughter XVI – Mens Rea I

Thus far we have looked at the actus reus (or the guilty act) to successfully obtain a conviction for constructive manslaughter. The act has to be unlawful and the unlawful act must satisfy the following criteria:-
·The unlawful act must be unlawful in criminal law and not just civil law ·The act must be an overt act and an omission or a failure to do something when there is a duty imposed by either common law or statute to do so will not suffice see R v Lowe (1973) ·The act must not merely result in physical injury but must be an act that the reasonable man would view as serious and an act that as far as the reasonable man is concerned would lead to dire consequences. Even if there is an assault it may not be sufficient to give rise to a conviction of constructive manslaughter see R v Arobekieke (1988).
The test that that is used to determine if the act may lead to serious consequences or could be fatal is the objective test (or the reasonable man’s test)
·The unlawful act need not be dir…

Crime XXXXXVI – Constructive Manslaughter XV – The Unlawful Act XIV

The question of whether injecting oneself with heroin, or any other drug that is listed as a class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, is in itself an unlawful act, arose is the case of R v Dias (2002).
In R v Dias (2002) the appellant and the victim jointly purchased some heroin. Like in R v Kennedy (1999) the appellant helped prepare the solution and handed it to the victim in a syringe. The victim then injected himself and died as a result.
The trial judge directed the jury in accordance with the decision in R v Kennedy (1999) and the jury returned a verdict of constructive manslaughter. The defense appealed.
The appeal was allowed and the conviction was quashed. The question that was raised was whether it was illegal to do or commit an act that results or eventuates in one’s own death?
In order to find the answer we have to look at the act itself. In this instance it was injecting oneself with heroin. The question that needs to be asked is whether injecting oneself with heroin …

Crime XXXXXV – Constructive Manslaughter XIV – The Unlawful Act XIII

The classification of the drug may be crucial in determining if whether a defendant is convicted for constructive manslaughter or otherwise. Judges may be more lenient when the drugs that are the cause of the death do not fall into the category of class A drugs.
In R v Kennedy (1999) the defendant supplied the drug, prepared the solution and handed it to the victim in a syringe. The victim injected himself with the solution and later died as a result. The drug that was involved was a class A drug (heroin). The defendant was tried and convicted for constructive manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter and the defense appealed on the grounds that the defendant supplied and prepared the solution but did not administer it.
The appeal was dismissed and the conviction was upheld. The decision is in line with the decision in R v Cato (1976) and the class of drug that is concerned plays an important role in determining if the conviction remains or otherwise.
With regards to causing the death of…

Crime XXXXXIV – Constructive Manslaughter XIII – The Unlawful Act XII

With reference to the decision in R v Cato (1976) it is important to note that the supply of drugs by itself may not lead to a conviction of constructive manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter even if there is a very high possibility or a real likelihood that the drug may be abused or misused.
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 divides drugs into three categories - Class A, Class B and Class C. Drugs listed under class A are the most dangerous and it is a felony to possess, sell or supply these drugs. Therefore, when dealing with drug related offences it is worth taking into account the classification of the drug as per the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
In R v Dalby (1982), the defendant supplied the victim with diaconal tablets. They defendant and the victim then parted company and the victim went off clubbing with some friends and during the course of the night the victim injected himself twice with the drugs with the help of his friends. He returned home and fell asleep and died in his slee…

Crime XXXXXIII – Constructive Manslaughter XII – The Unlawful Act XI

With reference to the decision in R v Cato (1976) it is important to note that the supply of drugs by itself may not lead to a conviction of constructive manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter even if there is a very high possibility or a real likelihood that the drug may be abused or misused.
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 divides drugs into three categories - Class A, Class B and Class C. Drugs listed under class A are the most dangerous and it is a felony to possess, sell or supply these drugs. Therefore, when dealing with drug related offences it is worth taking into account the classification of the drug as per the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
In R v Dalby (1982), the defendant supplied the victim with diaconal tablets. They defendant and the victim then parted company and the victim went off clubbing with some friends and during the course of the night the victim injected himself twice with the drugs with the help of his friends. He returned home and fell asleep and died in his slee…

Crime XXXXXII – Constructive Manslaughter XI – The Unlawful Act X

When the defendant argues or claims that the unlawful act was the result of a mistaken belief, in order to assess the dangerousness of the act or the extent of the unlawfulness, the courts will apply the objective test or take into account the perceptions of the reasonable man. Would a reasonable man have perceived the act to be dangerous?
In R v Ball (1989) the victim parked her car on the defendant’s land. The defendant and the victim then got into an argument and the victim drove off in her car. She returned later with two men and the defendant went off and came back with a shotgun. He pointed the gun at the victim and pulled the trigger and the victim died as a result.
The defendant argued that he did not intent to kill the victim and that he merely intended to scare her away and honestly believed that the gun was loaded with blanks at the time he pulled the trigger. The defendant was tried and convicted for constructive manslaughter.
The defense appealed. According to the defense th…