This essay will be dealing with the subject of murder and how applying the general principles of criminal law will help us in deciding an outcome. To begin with murder can be defined as 'a common law offence, which is the unlawful killing of a human being under the Queen's peace with malice aforethought. '1 It is important to establish whether Mens Rea and Actus Reus are present. In most cases is an act of crime because the person committing it intended to do something wrong. This mental state is generally referred to as Mens rea, or guilty mind.
Mens rea expresses a belief that people should be punished only when they have acted in a way that makes them morally blameworthy. 2 The Actus Reus is a guilty action, which may not necessarily involve intent. The main facts of the case are as follows: John was a Carsea United supporter, he brought three flares to the match with he planned to release into the crowd to disrupt the match is the opposition, Swaniff City, were in the lead. After half time, Swaniff City were clearly leading so John decided to release the flares.
He points them to the Swaniff City fans, whom he hates passionately. One of the flares hits Pablo; John laughs and flees the scene. Pablo is eventually collected by an ambulance but due to the drivers careless driving, is involved in an accident. Another ambulance comes after a considerable amount of time and once at he arrives at the hospital, the staff is busy with another emergency hence not attending to Pablo immediately. Pablo loses a lot of blood and goes into shock. He suffers from cardiac arrest and after attempts to resuscitate him, he dies.
At the autopsy it is found that Pablo had an undiagnosed heart defect. The question asks did John kill Pablo? In order to answer this we will now look at the actus reus, mens rea and the legal and factual issues of the situation. John brought three flares to the match witch he planned to release if things were not going well for his team. This in its self is and act which he has 'planned' to disrupt the game. The Actus Reus of a crime consists of more than just an act; it includes whatever circumstances and consequences are required for liability for the offence.
Therefore a positive physical act is required, John pointed the flares towards the opposition teams fans that we are told he hates passionately. This can be seen as a result crime as Pablo, who John's flare hits, does not die immediately. In result crimes, where a result or consequence is part of the actus reus, not only must the prosecution prove a forbidden act in forbidden circumstances, but they must also prove the defendants conduct caused the required consequence, i. e. , Pablo's death. In order to prove this, two elements must be proven: Factual Causation and Legal Causation.
Causation has a two stage test, first, factual causation must be established: it must be proved that the death would not have occurred 'but for'3 the accused conduct. It was seen in White (1910) that D was indicated for the murder of his mother having put cyanide in her drink intending to kill her. Medical evidence showed that she had died of heart failure before drinking the poisoned drink. Therefore here, the cyanide had nothing to do with her death. It can be argued that Pablo, with the undiagnosed heart defect, may have suffered cardiac arrest as a result of another factor that we are not aware of.
The second stage of the test is that there must be legal or imputable causation. This meaning that John must have performed a culpable act4. Thus in a result crime such as this one, the culpable act must have caused the result, and in a conduct crime, the culpable act is the culpable element in the conduct. John's act must be more than a minimal cause5 of the result. John's actions need not be the sole cause of the death, but is must be an operating and substantial cause of death. There muse also not be a break in the chain of causation, a Novus Actus Interveniens6.
It can be suggested that the chain of causation may have been broken when the ambulance driver has an accident. The causal connection is often difficult to make. Murder is the major example of a result crime; there are four main problem areas: when is the act a substantial cause of death? 2) Cumulative and alternative causes 3) what is the legal effect of an intervening event and 5) what is the legal effect of negligent medical treatment? 7 As mentioned previously, John's actions need not be the sole or even the main cause of death, but it must be a substantial cause.
John's act must have had a significant effect, more than minimum effect, to be an operating and substantial cause, as seen in the cases of Notman (1994) and Adams (1957) Crim LR 365. As noted in Watson (1989) 2 All ER 865 and Armstrong (1989)8, It is clearer to establish liability because Johns act was one of a number of causes which had caused Pablo's death. As Pablo's death came after a string of events, John's liability has to be proven after a careful analysis. After John's initial act of releasing the flares and before Pablo's eventual death, the occurrences in between can be seen as intervening events.
The intervening act of the ambulance accident was completely unconnected with John's act; therefore it was unforeseeable and brought about the consequence on its own then it breaks the chain of causation and John should not be held liable. Referring to the cases of Malcherek (1981) 1 WLR 690 and Pagett (1983) 76 Cr App R2799 if Pablo's death was caused by a combination of the two causes and Johns act remains a significant cause then he will be liable. Pablo's unfortunate situation at the hospital can be taken into account by discussing how his treatment may have contributed to his death.
The Oxford Journal of Legal Studies states that the courts are unwilling as a matter of policy to find that medical treatment has broken the chain of causation when it follows an initial unlawful act by someone else. The case of Jordon (1956) 40 Cr App R 152 no longer has much strength on its outcome as the case of Smith (1959) 2 QB 35. The Court of Appeal has subsequently confirmed the approach taken in Smith, indicating that Jordon has practically no relevance any more, except in the most 'extraordinary or extreme'10 case.
It is evident from looking at these cases that the chain of causation will virtually never be broken by medical negligence and that the law will follow this rule as set down in Smith and as applied recently in Cheshire (1991) 3 ALL ER 670. This rule will only be broken when the original wound has almost healed or where the medical treatment received is so bad it was "the direct and immediate cause" of death. To briefly note, It is also mentioned that John laughs and flees the scene, if John has done this after he had seen the flare hitting Pablo and failed to do anything to help then can he be held liable for murder?
'Unless a statute specifically provides, or the common law imposes a duty upon one person to act in a particular way to another... a mere omission to act cannot lead to criminal liability'11 Therefore, he will not be liable for his omissions unless an exception applies, these are: special relationships (parent, spouse, cousin... ) and voluntary assumption of responsibility for another - if a duty is assumed for another, then they assume a duty to act reasonably for the general welfare of that person and may be liable for omissions which prove fatal.
In this case John, as the perpetrator of the crime may owe a duty to Pablo since it was his flare that injured him. In conclusion, I believe that John did not kill Pablo due to him not having the intention to kill and the facts of the case indicating that this was a result crime which had a number of factor contributing to Pablo's death. Although the actions leading up to Pablo's death may have been triggered by John, his eventual death and the break in the chain of causation conclude that John did not kill Pablo.