Crime XXXXXVI – Constructive Manslaughter XV – The Unlawful Act XIV

The question of whether injecting oneself with heroin, or any other drug that is listed as a class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, is in itself an unlawful act, arose is the case of R v Dias (2002).

In R v Dias (2002) the appellant and the victim jointly purchased some heroin. Like in R v Kennedy (1999) the appellant helped prepare the solution and handed it to the victim in a syringe. The victim then injected himself and died as a result.

The trial judge directed the jury in accordance with the decision in R v Kennedy (1999) and the jury returned a verdict of constructive manslaughter. The defense appealed.

The appeal was allowed and the conviction was quashed. The question that was raised was whether it was illegal to do or commit an act that results or eventuates in one’s own death?

In order to find the answer we have to look at the act itself. In this instance it was injecting oneself with heroin. The question that needs to be asked is whether injecting oneself with heroin is illegal? If the answer is no then the defendant cannot be jointly responsible for bringing about the death of the victim because the act in itself i.e. the act that led to the death of the victim was not illegal.

Can the facts in R v Dias (2002) be distinguished (i.e. can the facts be differentiated) from the facts in R v Kennedy (1999)? Possibly; in the earlier case, R v Kennedy (1999), the defendant supplied the drugs and the courts most likely adopt a sterner view when the defendant is also the supplier.

In R v Dias (2002) the defendant and the victim jointly purchased the drugs i.e. the defendant was not the supplier. No doubt the defendant has committed a felony; under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 it is an offence to be in possession of class A drugs but whether the defendant is guilty of anything more is in fact a matter for the courts to decide.

  • The law was later clarified by the House of Lords in that it is not appropriate to convict a person of constructive manslaughter when he supplies a class A drug to a fully informed and responsible adult.
  • The term fully informed and responsible adult is important because the situation may be different if the drugs were supplied to a minor or someone whose reasoning abilities and capabilities are below that of the average person.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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