Crime XXXXXXXI – Gross Negligence Manslaughter III

The test in R v Lawrence (1982) was followed in a series of cases.

In R v Seymour (1983) the accused had a heated argument with his girlfriend and subsequently, according to him, tried to push or force her car out of the way with his eleven-ton lorry. The victim got out of the car but was crushed between the car and the lorry. The accused was charged and convicted of manslaughter.

It was held that, with regards to death that is caused by reckless driving, the test that is to be applied is the test in R v Lawrence (1981) i.e. the question that was to be asked was whether the defendant was driving in a manner that gave rise to an obvious and serious risk and whether the defendant gave any thought to the risk or having given it some thought dismissed it. However, the risk that is caused by the manner in which the defendant was driving must be very high.

In Kong Cheuk Kwan v The Queen (1985) (Privy Council) the appellants were drivers of two hydrofoils that collided in perfect weather and resulted in the loss of lives. It was decided that the test that was to be applied was the test in in R v Lawrence (1981) and the appellants were found to be guilty.

The courts at that stage hadn’t yet applied the duty of care principle which had been restricted or confined to the area of Tort and were reluctant to extent it to criminal law. The duty of care principle was first introduced in R v Adomako (1994).

In R v Adomako (1994) the defendant was an aesthetician who was in charge of administering anesthetics during an operation. While in surgery an oxygen pipe got disconnected and the patient died from the resulting complications. The defendant was charged and convicted for manslaughter. The defendant appealed.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the conviction but the House of Lords, on appeal by the prosecution, upheld the conviction on the grounds that the cause of death was not recklessness but gross negligence in breach of a duty.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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