Crime XXXIX – Involuntary Manslaughter II

In R v Swindall and Osborne (1846) the accused was driving his cart down a street, racing with another driver, the winner being the driver of the cart that reached the intended destination first. While they were racing one of the carts ran over a pedestrian who was killed in the accident that followed. The accused was arrested and charged with reckless manslaughter. The accused was convicted.

An accused however would not be convicted of manslaughter if he or she can prove or the defense can establish that even if the accused had not been careless or negligent, death would have been the end result anyway.

In R v Dalloway (1847) the accused, the driver of a horse drawn cart was driving his cart down a road when a child suddenly ran out in front of the cart and was hit by it. The accused was not holding the reins at the time the cart was travelling down the street and as a result deprived himself of the means of preventing or stopping an accident. The accused was charged in court.

During the trial, the accused adduced evidence to show that even if he had been holding on to the reins, the accident would still have occurred and the child would still have suffered fatal injuries. The court acquitted the accused and found him to be not guilty.

When it comes to driving in poor conditions or hazardous conditions it is up to the person who is in control of the vehicle to take the necessary precautions. For example, if one were to drive fast on a wet and slippery road then the chances are high that one would lose control of one’s vehicle.

In R v Longbottom (1849) the accused was driving his cart down a quite path that was somewhat isolated in the late evening, faster than normal, and his cart hit and killed the victim. During the trial, the defense argued that the victim was partly to blame because he was walking down a remote path at a time when visibility was poor. The court dismissed the argument and the accused was convicted of manslaughter.

Those responsible for maintaining roads are not liable in criminal law, though depending on the facts or the circumstances there may be an action in tort, if faults on the road cause an accident. In R v Pocock (1851) the victim was driving his cart down a street when his cart ran into a pothole. The victim was thrown off the cart and died as a result. An action was brought against the trustees who were responsible for maintaining the road on the basis that, had the roads been maintained in good order, the accident would not have happened or occurred. The court dismissed the case and found for the trustees.

An accused is not guilty of manslaughter if the accident that resulted was beyond his control. In R v Bennett (1858) the accused kept materials used in the manufacture of fireworks in his house. Thieves broke into his house and set off some of the fireworks. One of the rockets landed on the opposite house and set the house alight. The victim, an occupant of the house was killed in the fire that ensued and the accused was charged accordingly but the court decided that, based on the facts of the case and the evidence that was presented, the accused was not guilty.

In R v Benge (1865) the accused, a prisoner, was in charge of a group of prison workers who were working on a railway track. The accused had misread the train timetable and had assumed that the train would arrive a couple of hours later than when it actually did arrive and as a result at the time the train came through there were workers on the track.

As a precaution however, the accused had sent one of the workers ahead and the worker was supposed to stand 1000 meters away from the others and was supposed to signal the driver the moment he saw the train appear.

The worker however only went half the distance but he did signal the driver as soon as he saw the train approaching. The driver wasn’t paying much attention and hence did not have enough time to stop. The accused was charged in court.

During the trial, the defense claimed that the accused wasn’t entirely to blame and both the driver and the worker who was sent ahead were also equally to blame but the accused was found guilty of manslaughter nonetheless.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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