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Discuss the criminal liability of Ron in relation to the deaths of Charles, Martin and Paul.
Ron recently discovered that his wife Dana has been having an affair with another man, Charles. After confronting Dana, Ron packed his belongings and left the house to go and stay with his mother. On the way to his mother’s house he met Charles who laughed at him and called him a “useless husband”. The following day, Ron, who was normally a calm man, made a point of finding out Charles’ routine. He discovered that Charles usually orders a pizza every Friday from Tony’s Pizza Shop. On the following Friday, Ron waited outside Charles’ front gate and, when the pizza arrived, he punched the delivery driver, Martin, and took the pizza from him. Ron then sprinkled some very strong poison on the pizza and left it outside Charles’ door. Charles ate a slice of the pizza and died immediately. Martin was hospitalised with wounds to his face. Unbeknownst to Ron, Martin had a rare blood disorder which led him to bleed out and die that same evening. Later that night, a homeless man (Paul) entered Charles’ house, found the remainder of the pizza, ate it and died instantly. Discuss the criminal liability of Ron in relation to the deaths of Charles, Martin and Paul.
LLB Criminal Law Course Example problem question
Problem questions: an example
• S and B were unhappily married. B would frequently get drunk and, on such occasions, he would argue with S. As a result, S became withdrawn and severely depressed. One night, B came home in a bad temper and S left the house to avoid an argument. When S returned, she found B in bed with L, their neighbour. S said nothing and remained calm, but went downstairs, picked up a baseball bat, returned to the bedroom and hit B around the head a number of times. B later died in hospital as a result of his injuries. S was found to be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. A consultant psychiatrist subsequently confirms that S’s disorder was a factor in the killing.
Discuss the criminal liability, if any, of S.
• Murder: unlawful killing of human being under the Queen’s peace (AR) with intent to kill or cause GBH (MR)
• Unlawful killing: S hit B with baseball bat. B dies in hospital from injuries so causation is established.
• Factual causation: but for (
White). Legal causation: substantial ( Warburton), blameworthy ( Hughes, Taylor), operative (no NAI).
• Human being
• Queen’s peace
• Intent to kill/cause GBH (
Cunningham). GBH = really serious bodily harm ( Bollom). Direct intent = aim/purpose ( Moloney). Oblique intent ( Nedrick/Woollin) = virtually certain consequence, D realised this and jury find intention. Probably direct intent to cause GBH here.
• Defences: potential partial defence of diminished responsibility – reduces liability to manslaughter
• Diminished responsibility: s52, Coroners and Justice Act 2009 which amended s.2, Homicide Act 1957
• Burden of proof on the defence (s2(2)), on balance of probabilities.
• Diminished responsibility has 4 elements (need all 4):
• A: abnormality of mental functioning (s2(1), Homicide Act 1957) and B: arising from recognised medical condition (s2(1)(a))
• Abnormality of mental functioning not defined by statute
• Medical evidence required; medical condition must be recognised in medicine
and in law ( Dowds)
• S has PTSD so likely to meet tests under A and B
• C: condition substantially impaired D`s ability to (s2(1)(b)):
- understand nature of D`s conduct (s2(1A)(a)), and/or
- form rational judgment (s2(1A)(b)) (i.e. whether D can make a rational choice not whether the choice was rational:
Conroy), and /or
- exercise self-control (s2(1A)(c))
• Psychiatrist confirms S’s disorder was factor – was it substantial?
Golds: Substantial is ordinary English word. It must be more than trivial but “it is not the law that any impairment beyond the trivial will suffice”. The impairment must be weighty or significant.
• D: provides an explanation for D`s acts/omissions (s2(1)(c))
• i.e. the recognised medical condition ‘causes, or is significant contributory factor in causing’ D’s conduct (s2(1B)) (Note
not the same as causation for AR! It requires a causal effect within D’s mind)
Joyce and Kay: recognised medical condition must be causative i.e. not merely incidental
• Expert evidence required – need further information from psychiatrist
• Unhappily married, history of arguments
• Remained calm, baseball bat, hits B a number of times
• S withdrawn and severely depressed, PTSD
• Not a strong case for diminished responsibility given C and D and bearing in mind burden of proof, but need more evidence
• Loss of control cannot apply