Crime XXXXXIV – Constructive Manslaughter XIII – The Unlawful Act XII

With reference to the decision in R v Cato (1976) it is important to note that the supply of drugs by itself may not lead to a conviction of constructive manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter even if there is a very high possibility or a real likelihood that the drug may be abused or misused.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 divides drugs into three categories – Class A, Class B and Class C. Drugs listed under class A are the most dangerous and it is a felony to possess, sell or supply these drugs. Therefore, when dealing with drug related offences it is worth taking into account the classification of the drug as per the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

In R v Dalby (1982), the defendant supplied the victim with diaconal tablets. They defendant and the victim then parted company and the victim went off clubbing with some friends and during the course of the night the victim injected himself twice with the drugs with the help of his friends. He returned home and fell asleep and died in his sleep. All attempts to wake him up the following morning were unsuccessful. The defendant was tried and convicted for manslaughter and the defense appealed.

The conviction for manslaughter was quashed because it was not the supply of the drugs that had caused the death. It was injecting the drug into one’s body with or without the help of friends that was the cause of death.

Diaconal and its generic equivalents can still be purchased online with a prescription. If anything, the defendant would have been guilty of a felony.

It is possible to distinguish the decision in R v Cato (1976) with the decision R v Dalby (1982) in the following manner: –

  • Heroin is a class A drug which is highly dangerous and diaconal tablets may not fall under the category of a Class A drug.
  • In R v Cato (1976) the defendant not only supplied the drug but he also administered it or helped administer it. In R v Dalby (1982) the defendant merely supplied the drug.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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