Crime XXXXXIII – Constructive Manslaughter XII – The Unlawful Act XI

The unlawful act must cause death or the victim must have died as a result of the unlawful act. In all the cases that we have looked at thus far the victim died as the result of the defendant’s unlawful actions.

In R v Cato (1976) the defendant injected the victim with drugs (heroin), with the consent of the victim; both the victim and defendant were drug addicts. The victim was found dead in the morning and the defendant was arrested and tried for administering a noxious item as per s.23 of the OAPA (Offences Against the Person Act) 1861. The section reads as follows:

23. Maliciously administering poison so as to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm.

-Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously administer to or cause to be administered to or taken by any other person any poison or other destructive or noxious thing, so as thereby to endanger the life of such person, or so as thereby to inflict upon such person any grievous bodily harm, shall be guilty of felony, and being convicted thereof shall be liable . . . to be kept in penal servitude for any term not exceeding ten years . . .

The defense appealed on the grounds that heroin, the drug that the victim was injected with, was not noxious and the act of injecting the victim was not malicious because there was an element of consent involved or the victim consented to being injected. The appeal was dismissed and the conviction was upheld.

  • Any drug even drugs that are commonly prescribed by doctors can be lethal. Aspirin for example can be fatal if administered or taken in access.
  • Consent in not a defense to manslaughter. Even if the victim consents, if the act results in death than the element of consent can be negated.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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