Crime XV – Murder II

In order to charge the accused with murder, the accused must not only have the intention to kill but death must have been the result of his actions. It does not suffice that the accused intended to kill and went about the act of bringing about the death of another but for some reason or other death did not result from his actions.

In R v White (1910) the defendant laced his mother’s drink with cyanide. The mother however before she had consumed the drink had a heart attack and died as a result. The defendant’s attempt to poison his mother was however discovered and he was charged. The court determined that in order to find the defendant guilty of murder it must be established that the victim would not have died but for the defendant’s actions and because it was not the defendant’s act that had killed the victim the accused was found to be not guilty of murder.

The intention to kill or the intention to cause GBH (grievous bodily harm) is transferable i.e. the victim does not have to be the person that the accused intended to kill or injure.

In R v Latimer (1886) the accused while in a pub got into a fight and took off his belt to try and hit the intended victim with the buckle. The buckle missed and hit another woman, who was close to them instead, in the face. The accused was charged and he argued that he had no intention to injure the woman. It was decided that despite the fact that the accused did not intend to hit the woman, he intended to hit someone and therefore he was guilty.

Similarly, in R v Mitchell (1983) the accused jumped a queue at the post office and was confronted by an elderly man. The accused hit the elderly man and he fell into the crowd and collided with an elderly lady. As a result, the elderly lady fell down and broke her leg. She subsequently died from the injuries that she’d sustained. The accused was charged and convicted for manslaughter.

When death is a result of an act of gross negligence or sheer recklessness, thought the accused cannot be convicted for murder he or she can be convicted for manslaughter. 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.

The difference between murder and manslaughter is the mens rea or intention. If it can be established beyond reasonable doubt that the accused intended to kill or did the act with the intention of killing another than he or she can be convicted of murder. If the accused did the act without the intention of killing another but it nonetheless results in the death of another as in instances of gross negligence or sheer recklessness, then the accused is guilty of manslaughter.

In W (A Minor) v Dolbey (1983) the accused fired an air gun at his friend believing it to be empty, when in fact there was a pellet in the air gun. The pellet struck his friend and wounded him. The magistrates court, applying Caldwell recklessness, convicted the accused for maliciously wounding his friend but the conviction was quashed on appeal on the grounds that the accused did not have the intention to cause the victim serious harm or grievous bodily harm.

In R v Crossman (1986) the accused was the driver of a lorry. He loaded a machine on the back of the lorry though he was advised that the machine was too heavy for his lorry and he failed to secure the machine to his lorry. As a result, the machine fell off and killed a pedestrian. The accused was charged and convicted. He was guilty of reckless manslaughter.

In R v Hancock and Shankland (1986) two striking miners dropped a concrete block and a concrete post from a motorway bridge which struck a taxi taking a working miner to work, thereby killing the taxi driver. The accused argued that they merely intended to stop the work from progressing or continuing while the prosecution claimed that the pair intended to cause grievous bodily harm and nothing less. The accused were convicted for murder. They appealed.

The House of Lords substituted the conviction for murder with that of manslaughter and held that in order to determine whether the accused were guilty or otherwise the jury ought to be directed to look into the probability of the consequences. The higher the probability the higher the chances that the accused intended to either kill or cause grievous bodily harm.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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