Q1. When trying to establish causation in any case, there are two factors to consider; the factual causation, i.e. did the defendants act cause the injury to the victim and did the circumstances cause the consequence of the act. In order to establish this, you would have to apply the sine qua non; without which not, the ‘but for’ test, R v White 1910. The second factor is the legal causation; was there an operating and substantial conduct to the act, R v Cheshire 1991, was the act a culpable act, R v Dalloway 1847, however, strict liability does not apply to the offence R v Williams 2011, the act need not be the sole cause, but more than minimal, R v Benge 1865. The novus actus interveniens; a new intervening act which will break the chain of causation. There are different tests that are applied to decide if the chain of causation has been broken depending on the intervening party, a third party will generally break the chain of causation unless the act was foreseeable, R v Pagett 1983, the second is the victim, the chain of causation will not be broken unless the victims actions are disproportionate or unreasonable in the circumstances, R v Roberts 1971. The thin skull test rule will be applied, and the defendant must take the victim as they find him, the rule applies even if the defendant did not know of the existing condition, R v Haywood 1908.
In regards to the information on Sophie, she suffered mental health issues such as bulimia, anorexia nervosa, depression and anxiety, if then you apply the ‘but for’ test, this would constitute to her buying the diet pills as she was obsessed about her weight, taking this into account the legal causation the operating and substantial conduct to cause harm or injury would be voluntary administering the pills herself due to her mental instability.
Regarding Callum, calling Sophie ‘chubby legs’ and making derogatory remarks towards her caused Sophie to think she was overweight. This could be argued as an operating and substantial factor of conduct; however, this is de minimis; the minimal things, this will not be substantial enough to be prosecuted by a court of law.
When regarding Nigel’s consideration for both factors it is clear both are present, Nigel sold the diet pills on the internet with the knowledge that they contained DNP; dinitrophenol which is toxic, although he stated on the website that the tablets could cause sickness and headaches it did not contain a warning of the substance. Taking this into consideration the sine qua non then it could be argued that this could contribute to legal causation as in the thin skull test, in the chain of causation therefore guilty of an offence.
Q2. It could be argued that the causation of each offence is not consistent, looking at everyone there are many inconsistences with each person.
Sophie had mental health issues, if these were addressed then it could be argued that she would not have taken the diet pills as she would not have been worried about her weight. If looking at the consistency of the offences then it could be argued that Sophie took her own life after increasing the dose to eight pills a day as she was addicted to the thought of losing weight, If this was argued then the third party intervention would apply and therefore would be considered a tragic death or ruled a suicide on the basis of over dosing on the diet pills.
Regarding Callum’s causation to the offences this is not consistent, it could be argued that Callum had a duty of care towards Sophie as they were in a relationship, but this could also be argued due to the chain of causation that Callum has with the derogatory remarks and causing Sophie to think she is over weight has contributed to the cause of her death. Express car company ltd v Environmental agents 1999 the house of lords held;
“there is something almost perverse about the reasoning which concludes that the defendant should be responsible for a result which he did not cause simply because of the act of vandalism by which it was caused was not so extraordinary as to be unforeseeable”
The information provided in the above statement can be applied to Callum as the events leading to Sophie taking the pills was foreseeable and not extraordinary, therefore could be argued that Callum contributed as a third party and be convicted of gross negligence manslaughter as he breached his duty of care towards Sophie.
Nigel’s causation is not consistent, thus allowing him to be convicted of certain offences. It could argue that Nigel breached Section 23 of the offences against the person act 1861; S.23
“Whoever shall unlawfully and maliciously administer to or cause to or taken by any other person any poison or other destructive or noxious thing, so as thereby to endanger the life of such person, or so as thereby to inflict upon such person grievous bodily harm, shall be guilty of (an offence) and being convicted therefore shall be liable……”
However, as a third party administered the toxic substance themselves, thus this will make it hard to determine. However, “If the defendant puts a noxious thing in food which the victim is about to eat and the victim is ignorant of the presence of the noxious thing, eats it, then the defendant commits an offence” Therefore Nigel is guilty of an offence.
Q3. In order to convict unlawful and dangerous act manslaughter; there needs to be a death of a human being, under the queen’s peace, without the mens rea present, The defendant must have committed an unlawful act; one which all reasonable man would realise the action would risk some physical harm resulting from there, albeit not serious harm, R v Williams and Davis 1992, if the defendant realised it or not. The act does not have to be directed against a person, was the act was dangerous, R v Ball 1989.
Any unlawful act would constitute for constructive manslaughter, R v Fenton 1830, however, it was established in 1883 that only criminal law would constitute as an unlawful act, R v Franklin 1883.
There must be a constructive unlawful act in order to convict of unlawful and dangerous act manslaughter, dangerous does no have an ordinary and natural meaning, R v Church 1965, Edmund Davis LJ said:
“the unlawful act must be such as all sober and reasonable people would inevitably recognise must subject the other person to, at least, the risk of some harm resulting therefrom, albeit not serious harm”.
All the elements must be present to convict unlawful act manslaughter, if not present then a conviction of unlawful act manslaughter can not be made.
It could be argued that even though Nigel knowingly sold a toxic substance, R v Kennedy (no 2) (2007), Lord Bingham of Cornwall encapsulated the question raised,
“When it is appropriate to find someone guilty of manslaughter where that person has been involved in the supply of class A controlled drug, which is then freely and voluntary administered by the person to whom it was supplied, and the administration of the drugs then causes his death?” R v Wilson 1856 and Attorney General of Hong Kong v Tse Hung-lit 1986.
Lord Bingham went on to say that, “the appellant cannot be criminally liable as an accessory for that self-administering. He is the either liable as a principle, liable under one of the other two “causing” limbs of section 23.
When considering the information regarding Nigel it is clear that he could be convicted of a crime, it could be argued that he is guilty of suppling an illegal substance under the food act 1996 S.2 as it is illegal to sell a toxic substance that is not for human consumption. However, Nigel could argue that therefore he is not guilty of unlawful and dangerous manslaughter as the drug is not illegal to sell under the misuse of drugs act 1971, thus the jury would need to determine if Nigel is guilty of an offence.
Q4. In order to determine gross negligence manslaughter, the courts will need to establish the following; did the defendant have a duty of care towards the victim; a contractual contract, R v Pittwood 1902, an assumed responsibility, R v Stone and Dobinson 1977, a position in society, R v Dytham 1979 or a special relationship, R v Gibbins and Proctor 1990. If it is established that there was some kind of relationship, then the following will be determined the following must be decided by the jury; did the defendant have an existing relationship with the victim, was there a breach in the duty of care; did the defendant cause (or significantly contribute) to the victim’s death, is the breach characterised as gross negligence, outlined by the house of lords, R v Adomako 1994. There is no general duty owed by citizens (no “good Samaritan rule”). The duty of care will arise from an act of a person when the foreseeability, proximity, fairness, justice and reasonableness establish such duty, Donohue v Stevenson 1932. A fifth test was introduced, that criminal involvement with an element of ‘badness’, the risk must be serious and obvious with a risk of death, not merely serious injury, R v Misa and Srivastava 2005.
When regarding the information on Nigel, on the grounds of gross negligent manslaughter he could be convicted of an offence, R v Evans 2009, the house of lords held:
“If a person created or contributed to the creation of the state of affairs which he knew, or ought reasonably to have known, had become life threatening, a consequent duty on him to act by taking reasonable steps to save the other’s life would normally arise.”
It could be argued that Nigel knew the pills were toxic and therefore had the choice to stop selling the diet pills online as this would cause life threatening consequences, due to the fact that Nigel still sold the diet pills as the business was lucrative should be taking into consideration.
Q5. When a charge of murder is brought before the courts, there are two elements that need to be considered. The actus reus and the mens rea.
The actus rea element is the physical element of the crime, thus the jury will take into consideration the following; did the defendant unlawfully kill; not in self-defence or a justified killing, R (on the application of Bennett) v HM coroner of inner south London 2006 a human being; must be breathing from its own lungs and independent of mother, when the brain stem is no longer active whether or not artificial means are in use, A-G ref ( no 3 of 1994) 1998, under the queen’s peace; in the jurisdiction of England and wales, under British nationality; this also excludes killing of an alien in time of war and was the defendant of sound mind; sufficiently reason like other rational man. The second element to be considered is the mens rea, malice aforethought; did the defendant have intent to kill or have intent to cause grievous bodily harm, GBH, R v Vickers 1979.
In the information provided, it would appear that that only one of the elements is present; actus reus, this is due to the victim being deceased, there is no evidence to suggest that Nigel intended to cause GBH or kill someone.
Making a successful charge of murder the jury would have to find intent; the defendant had knowledge of a wrong doing. However, this could be argued that the defendant knowingly sold the pills that could endanger life as the pills contained a toxic substance, which in turn cause a death due to not fully disclosing the side effects of the diet pills.