The purpose of this essay is to discuss the criminal liability of Alan, pub owner Ed, and Doctor Fiona, for the deaths of Betty and Clive, and whether Alan has criminal liability for the fire damages to the pub. In relation to each defendant I will indicate which offence/s they could be charged with and outline the definitions of each offence. I will discuss relevant principles such as causation and voluntariness of Actus Reus (AR), and then apply the law to the facts of each case. Discussing first the criminal liability of Alan for the deaths of Betty and Clive, I will consider both murder, and manslaughter.
The required AR for both these offences is "The unlawful killing of a human being under the Queen's peace. "1 Assuming that both victims were alive and that this scenario was not during a war, it remains to establish that this was an unlawful killing. It appears that Alan's shooting and setting the pub on fire is what led to both victims' deaths and clearly no justificatory defence such as self-defence or consent could be raised. But was this a voluntary act? "Voluntary" in criminal law is defined narrowly; a "muscular bodily movement controlled by will or volition". At this stage the defendant's desire is not relevant. 2
However considering that Alan was already taking an aim, and was pulling the trigger in the moment that Dennis slapped him on the back it is unlikely that pleading involuntariness would be successful. In relation to AR, factual and legal causation must be proved. Factual causation can be established by asking "but for D's act, would the result of deaths have occurred? " (Dalloway,3 White4)5. In this case it is clear that but for Alan's shooting these deaths would not have occurred. In terms of legal causation, it is necessary to explore whether any event or intervening act by a third person broke the chain of causation started by D.
Such an intervention could provide Alan with a defence. Pagett6 confirmed that such an act would have to be voluntary, i. e. free, deliberate and informed. Also, D's act does not need to be the sole or even main cause of death provided it contributed significantly to that result7. Alan may try to argue that pub owner Ed's act of piling beer crates in front of the emergency exit broke the chain of causation. However considering Pagett it is unlikely he would be successful. However if Alan indeed lacked AR, then Ed might be charged with Gross Negligence Manslaughter.
According to Adomako8 four questions would need answering; was there 1) a duty owed by D towards V to take care; 2) a breach of duty in such a way as to cause death; 3) causation; 4) gross negligence showing such disregard for the life and safety of others as to amount to a crime. 9 Ed arguably owed a duty of care due to statutory or contractual duties to protect the public. However it would also remain for the jury to determine whether Ed's act fulfilled the fourth element. In relation to Betty's death, Alan may try to argue that Doctor Fiona's authorising the termination of life support broke the chain of causation.
However, medical cases rarely break the chain of causation. 10 Specifically, Bland11 confirmed that terminating life support is an omission that would not breach the doctor's duty to keep the patient alive if the patient is in an irrecoverable, unconscious condition and a clinical decision is made in the best interest of the patient to discontinue treatment. 12 This argument would therefore not be successful and Fiona would have no criminal liability. Returning to Alan's case, I will now look at the mens rea (MR) of murder and manslaughter respectively:
The MR for murder is intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm (GBH). Intention can be direct or oblique. Direct intent is when the result of the crime was (D's) direct purpose or aim of the act. Oblique intent is when the result is a pre-condition of an act, or a virtually certain consequence of an act. The pre-condition or consequence must be foreseen by the defendant (Nedrick13, Woolin14). 15 It appears that it was Alan's purpose (i. e. direct intent) to kill Clive or cause him GBH, and so if proved beyond reasonable doubt he would be guilty of the murder of Clive.
As far as we know, Alan's aim was not to kill Betty. However depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to prove that there was a virtual certainty that Alan's act would result in GBH or death of Betty, and that he foresaw it. For example if Betty was sitting just next to Clive. The decision lies with the jury, and is a very difficult one considering the fine line between recklessness and oblique intention and considering the consequences of an unfair conviction. Murder is followed by a mandatory life sentence whilst manslaughter sentences can vary considerably.
If the probability of causing either of the V's serious harm or death was less than a virtual certainty Alan could be guilty of manslaughter. Reckless manslaughter has been committed if D "is aware of a risk of death or serious injury and nevertheless goes on unreasonably to take that risk (Lidar)16. 17 "Aware of risk" is a subjective test since Caldwell (objective) recklessness in respect of manslaughter was overturned by Adomako18. 19 As far as we know Alan has a paranoid personality and is prone to depression, none of which indicate that he would be unable to foresee the risk he posed to the V's.
However this would depend on his mental state and the facts. Alan could also be charged with Dangerous and Unlawful Act Manslaughter, i. e. killing whilst committing an unlawful act20 with MR greater than negligence (Fenton21, Lamb22, Simon Slingsby23). The act must be dangerous and constitute a risk of harm, albeit not serious harm, (Church24). Foresight of harm by D is not necessary (Ball25) if it would be appreciated by the sober and reasonable man (Watson26 ) however an intention to commit an unlawful and dangerous act, and that the act inadvertently caused death, must be proved (DPP v Newbury27).
Shooting towards Clive would clearly be a qualifying act in all above respects. I will now consider what defences may be available to Alan: If D acted without control of the mind, or was not conscious of what he was doing, he could plead automatism or insanity. Non-insane automatism is "an involuntary act… done by the muscles, without any control by the mind, such as a spasm… , or an act done by a person who is not conscious of what he is doing, such as an act whilst suffering from concussion… " (Bratty28) when the state is brought on by an external cause.