Legislating the Criminal Code

From the information given, we are being told that both Derek and Euan were badly injured in the blaze. In Derek's case, he was unconscious for thirteen months and was on life support until his family decided to stop life support, at which point, he died. With the facts available to us, it is clear that 'but for' the explosion of the firebomb hidden by Aidan in the hospital, Derek would not have been badly injured and kept on life support. 15 However, to hold Aidan responsible for Derek's death, it is essential that Aidan's conduct was more than a minimal and remain as the operative and significant cause of the Derek's death.

Depending on the exact facts, it may be that although switching off the life support machine was the immediate cause of Derek's death, this may still not have broken the chain of causation as the original wound made a significant contribution to Derek's death. 16 If the prosecution can satisfy that Derek's is in a persistent vegetative state as a result of Aidan's act, Derek's death after the discontinuance of life support treatment would also be caused by Aidan's act. 17 As for Euan's death, we are given the facts that Euan was given poor treatment by Finnis which made his condition worsen.

With this, we need to examine if the poor treatment constitute medical negligence. This is because negligent medical treatment could break the chain of causation if it was so independent of Aidan's acts and such a powerful cause of death in itself that the contribution made by Aidan was insignificant. 18 Instead of holding Aidan liable, this could lead to Finnis being liable for negligent manslaughter where there is a breach of duty of care by Finnis with no unlawful act but where a death has arisen because of the high degree of negligence of Finnis.

19 The actus reus of the gross negligence manslaughter is Euan's death arising from the negligent medical treatment while the mens rea is the gross negligence of the treatment. However, having regard to the risk of death involved, the doctor's liability will be decided whether the treatment given has fallen below the 'normal band of competence' and has been sufficiently negligent to justify criminal liability. 20 It is not necessary to discuss further on Finnis's liability as we are only asked to advice on Aidan's liability. Nevertheless, from the information given, it is clear that Euan refused the blood transfusion whereupon he dies.

Here, we would have to examine if this had broken the chain of causation. The first argument available would be where Euan has a pre-existing medical condition. We would have to use the 'eggshell skull' rule where Aidan must take Euan as he finds him who has an intense fear of blood and was receiving psychiatric care before the bombing. This would not have broken the chain of causation. Furthermore, if the injuries inflicted by Aidan's bombing were an operating and significant cause of the death, Aidan would not escape liability just because Euan had refused the blood transfusion.

21 Concisely, the main question here is what caused Euan's death. If the answer is Aidan's bombing, the fact that Euan's refusal for blood transfusion will not break the causal connection between the act and the death. 22 However, we are being informed that Euan's condition deteriorated after given the bad treatment by Finnis. Thus, it may be that Aidan's original acts are no longer an operative cause of Euan's death. Hence, more detailed information is necessary to be certain what the operating cause of Eaun's death is. An additional point is that as far as we are aware, the firebomb hidden in the hospital had caused blaze.

As fire is seen to be an unusually dangerous weapon given its tendency to get out of control very quickly, Aidan may be charged under section 1(3) of Criminal Damage Act 1971 which states that if a person destroys or damages property by fire, this will be arson,23 for which the punishment maximum is life imprisonment. Here, the existence danger to life was caused by the destruction of damage to the hospital24 Moreover, there is no need to prove that life was in fact endangered, so long as it is proved that Aidan intended such danger, or was reckless as to whether it occurred. 25

In conclusion, it is likely that Aidan would be liable for constructive manslaughter for Catharine's death. This would be the same for Derek's and Euan's death, as Aidan is going to find it very difficult to prove that the chain of causation has been broken, even where the intervening act such as switching off the life support machine and refusal for blood transfusion appears to be substantial; and where the negligent of Finnis is of a high degree. This shows that constructive manslaughter is unfair to the accused like Aidan where there was obviously no intention to kill or cause serious injury to the victims.

Thus, some further reforms such as a report in 1996 called Legislating the Criminal Code: Involuntary Manslaughter by the Law Commission and The Government's proposal: Reforming the Law of Involuntary Manslaughter should be taken into consideration. This way, the law would be more effective in the interests of society and serving justice if it was clear in what were stated and clear distinctions expressed in an up-to-date form of language for serious and lesser offences.