Crime XXXXXXVI – Involuntary Manslaughter XII

The need to establish that the defendant owes the victim(s) a duty of care was further affirmed in R v Wacker (2002). In the case the defendant was transporting 60 illegal immigrants on board a refrigerated truck from Rotterdam to the United Kingdom. There was only one air vent available and prior to the truck boarding a ferry, the air vent was shut and the passengers were told not to make any noise to prevent detection.

The air vent remained shut for 10 hours, the defendant forgot to reopen it and 58 of the passengers died as a result. The defendant was charged and convicted of manslaughter.

The defendant argued that the duty of care principle which is commonly used in tort does not extend to criminal law. The argument from the duty of care perspective was that the driver owes his passengers a duty of care like any other ordinary driver to ensure that he takes reasonable care to ensure that his passengers arrive at their destination safely. The only exception here was that the act of taking the passengers i.e. the illegal immigrants, was illegal.

It was held that for public policy reasons the duty of care principle can be extended to criminal law and the fact that the act was in itself illegal (ex turpi causa non oritur action) does not negate the application of the duty of care principle. The defendant was accordingly convicted and sentenced.

In R v Graves and Coates (2003) (Corporate Manslaughter) the defendant was the owner of a haulage company. He was charged together with one of his lorry drivers for gross negligence manslaughter (gross negligence by a company).

The driver crashed into the back of a car killing the other driver. He’d been working continuously for 20 hours without proper sleep and rest and as a result he suffered from a lack of sleep or sleep deprivation. Both the owner and the driver were convicted and sentenced for gross negligence manslaughter.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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