Gross Negligence Manslaughter – Summary 2

R v Adomako (1994) is a significant case as far as gross negligence manslaughter is concerned. According to the facts the defendant an anesthetist failed to monitor the oxygen pipes during a surgery and as a result the pipes got disconnected and the patient died. It was obvious that if the anesthetist was keeping an eye on the pipes he would have been able to prevent the death.

The defendant was convicted on first instance. The defense successfully appealed and the court of appeal quashed the conviction but the House of Lords on further appeal by the prosecution upheld the conviction.

The House of Lords applied the duty of care principle enunciated by Lord Atkins in the landmark civil case (tort) of Donoghue v Stevenson (1932).

The rule that you are to love thy neighbor (Matthew 22:39) becomes in law you must not injure your neighbor. In order to obtain a conviction, the prosecution must establish duty, breach, causation and a fourth element.

The elements that are to be established are as follows: –

  1. The defendant must owe the victim a duty of care
  2. The defendant must have breached that duty of care
  3. The breach of the duty must have caused the death of the victim and
  4. The conduct of the defendant was so bad (gross) that a crime could easily be inferred.

Gross negligence is a strict liability offence and the defendant can be convicted without establishing the mental element or mens rea. In A-G’s ref no 2 of 1999 (2000) it was decided that the defendant can be convicted for gross negligence manslaughter without taking into account his state of mind, though it is easier to do so if it can be established that he was reckless.

In the absence of subjective recklessness, in order to determine if the defendant was reckless or otherwise, the test that is to be used is the objective test or the reasonable man’s test see R v DPP ex parte Jones (2000).

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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