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CRIMINAL LAW Lecture 2: Liability for omission. Liability for omission Though it will usually be the case that the accused will have performed some ‘act’

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Presentation on theme: "CRIMINAL LAW Lecture 2: Liability for omission. Liability for omission Though it will usually be the case that the accused will have performed some ‘act’"— Presentation transcript:

1 CRIMINAL LAW Lecture 2: Liability for omission

2 Liability for omission Though it will usually be the case that the accused will have performed some ‘act’ there are certain situations where the accused can be liable for omitting / failing to act There is no general duty to act… …BUT D may be criminally liable for an omission where there is a legal duty to act

3 When might D be liable for a failure / omission to act? The accused may be criminally liable for omitting to act provided: (1) The crime is one which may be committed by omission; and (2) The accused is in breach of some legal duty to act

4 When does a legal duty to act arise? (i) Statutory duty: Failure to provide breath specimen; RTA 1988 Wilful neglect of a child; Children and Young Persons Act 1933 Failure to keep a dangerous dog under control in a public place; Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (ii) Duty owed by a Public Officer Dytham (1979)

5 When does a legal duty to act arise? (iii) Duty arising under Contract Pittwood (1902) (iv) Duty of Care Voluntarily Assumed Instan (1893) Gibbons and Proctor (1918) Stone and Dobinson (1977) A controversial decision?

6 When does a legal duty to act arise? (v) Duty created by Special Relationship Parents Gibbons and Proctor Note: Sheppard (1981) – parental duty ends at 18 years? Other blood relations? Stone and Dobinson – Did S’s duty arise because he was F’s brother?

7 When does a legal duty to act arise? Spouses Bonnyman (1942) Smith (1979): A spouse may be released from the duty to act…provided the victim has the capacity to make rational decisions Unmarried partners ?? People v Beardsley (1967) Those who engage in hazardous activities ?? Those who supply drugs to another ?? Khan and Khan (1998)

8 When does a legal duty to act arise? (vi) Creation of a Dangerous Situation Where D has created a dangerous situation s/he may be guilty via 2 different routes… (1) D becomes under a duty to act and omits to do so Miller (1983) (HL) – the better analysis? (2) D’s conduct can be construed as a ‘continuing act’ Fagan v Metropolitan Police Commissioner (1969) See also: DPP v. Santana-Bermudez (2003) (see Herring p.326), where the Administrative Court applied the Miller principle

9 Distinguishing acts from omissions In medical cases it is critical to distinguish between acts and omissions E.g. Is the switching off of a life support machine an act or an omission? Airedale NHS Trust v. Bland (1993) Since all hope of B’s recovery had gone, the doctors’ duty to provide life prolonging treatment had disappeared No duty = No liability for omission when feeding and treatment is withheld

10 Summary… In order to be criminally liable for omitting / failing to act; (1) The crime must be capable of being committed by omission; and (2) The accused must be in breach of some legal duty to act A legal duty to act can arise in numerous ways e.g. by statute, contract, voluntary assumption, relationship, the creation of a dangerous situation… The distinction between acts and omissions is critical in medical cases

11 Reading & Tutorial Work Liability for omission Herring pp (basic principles) See also p.326 (Santana Bermudez) Causation (for next week’s lecture) Herring pp Tutorial (w/c 13 th October) See pg.5 of the Module Handbook (omissions)


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