Problem Solving Constructive Manslaughter
1. Alan and Ron are friends who have agreed to spend the evening injecting each other with heroin and water mixes. Ron subsequently becomes unconscious and dies as a result of a drug overdose. Discuss Alan’s criminal liability for the death of Ron. 2. How would your answer differ if Ron had self administered the heroin and water mix prepared by Alan and died as a result of an overdose of heroin? 1) Constructive Manslaughter also refers to as unlawful manslaughter.
Constructive Manslaughter is a form of involuntary Manslaughter in that an unlawful killing has taken place where the defendant lack the mens rea of a murder. There are two types of Manslaughter one of which is Constructive Manslaughter which exists when the defendant commits an unlawful dangerous act may result the death and Gross Negligence Manslaughter where the defendant commits an lawful act result in the death. In this context, Alan is unlikely to be charged with murder as there is no indication of Alan deciding to cause grievous bodily harm to Ron.
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Alan though may however be more likely to be charged with the offence of Constructive manslaughter. Constructive Manslaughter was defined in (R v Larkin 1944 ) and requires proof of four elements: there must be an intentional act, rather than an omission R v Lowe 1967 which is unlawful, objectively dangerous and which causes death (DPP v Newbury & Jones 1977) Alan does an intentional act here by injecting Ron with the heroin.
This is an unlawful act because it constitutes a criminal offence ( R v Franklin 1883) It is clear for anyone to understand that the effects of excessive drug consumption whether injected into the bloodstream or merely consuming the drug pill per se, could have high possibilities of endangering one’s life leading to the death of one. On the contrary, It was prominently impractical for both Alan and Ron to be jointly engaging in hazardous activities what more to be injecting each other with heroin and water mixes.
By “agreeing” to spend the whole evening doing that make known to us that both parties were aware of the consequences that follows injecting heroin into the bloodstream which was a very dangerous act as Heroin crosses through the blood brain barrrier very rapidly because it is highly soluble in lipids and by then subsequently after what has been consumed, they both will have to succumb to the side effects.
The unlawful act is dangerous specified further by Edmund Davies LJ in R v Church (1965) as stated: “the unlawful act must be such as all sober and reasonable people would inevitably recognise must subject the other person to, at least, the risk of some harm resulting there from, albeit not serious harm. ” The test is thus objective, concerned with what a sober and reasonable person like, Alan, would regard as, giving rise to harm to Ron when he injected the heroin into his bloodstream.
This test was to be assessed when Alan was present at the time of the unlawful act and observing him while he was injecting him. But for Alan agreeing to be in cahoot with Ron, injecting him the whole evening and then leave him unconscious without having the intent to summon medical assistance, Ron would not have died, unless of course he self-administers the drug and injected it himself into his bloodstream, which unequivocally would be a different story altogether. The unlawful act that Alan has carried out on Ron had substantially caused the death of Ron.
Where the defendant actually injects the drug to another person resulting in death, the position is quite straight forward. The defendant’s unlawful act is administering a noxious thing contrary to s. 23 Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and this act causes death. The defendant is liable for manslaughter notwithstanding the fact that the victim consented to the injection (R v Cato 1976) which facts are similar to this case where they prepared their own solution and paired up to inject each other. Thus, with all that is being mentioned above Alan is likely to be guilty of Constructive Manslaughter . ) Gross negligence manslaughter is a form of involuntary manslaughter where the defendant is ostensibly acting lawfully. Involuntary manslaughter may arise where the defendant has caused death but neither intended to cause death nor intended to cause serious bodily harm and thus lacks the mens rea of murder. Whereas constructive manslaughter exists where the defendant commits an unlawful act which results in death. Gross negligence manslaughter is not dependant on demonstrating an unlawful act has been committed.
It can be said to apply where the defendant commits a lawful act in such a way as to render the actions criminal. Gross negligence manslaughter also differs from constructive manslaughter in that it can be committed by omission. In the context of Ron having self administered the heroin and water mix prepared by Alan instead and died as a result of an overdose of heroin, would have Alan to be unlikely convicted with the offense of Constructive Manslaughter and most likely to be convicted with Gross Negligent Manslaughter.
Gross Negligent Manslaughter was defined in (R v Bateman 1923, R v Seymour 1983) (eventually overruled) and requires proof of four elements, existence of the duty; breach of the duty causing death; and gross negligence which jury considers justifies criminal conviction, and whether the gross negligence was a substantial cause of the death (R v Litchfield 1998, R v Adomako 1994)
It is arguable though because, on the grounds that, they both were friend, states that the defendant stands in a special relationship to either the person who is the source of the danger, or to the person who is foreseeable at risk from the danger. Whether Alan owed Ron a duty of care is a question of the law: R Willoughby (2004), R v Evans (2009) Relating to the principle of R v Evans, 2009, quoted by Lord Chief Justice, “The duty necessary to found gross negligence manslaughter is plainly not confined to cases of a familial or professional relationship between the defendant and the deceased.
In our judgment, consistently with Adomako and the link between civil and criminal liability for negligence, for the purposes of gross negligence manslaughter, when a person has created or contributed to the creation of a state of affairs which he knows, or ought reasonably to know, has become life threatening, a consequent duty on him to act by taking reasonable steps to save the other’s life will normally arise” as much to say that there was an existence of a duty of care between Alan and Ron, as Alan had supplied unlawful drugs to Ron.
This shows that he was fully aware that life could be in peril for Ron if his body system was weak and it should have been practical for Alan, to have intelligently taken measures to prevent and not preparing the mixture for Ron in the first place. Thus, with all that being said, it is most likely for a duty of care to be imposed on Alan. Alan however had breach his duty of care to Ron. His conduct has fallen below of that to be expected of a reasonable man.
But for Alan’s act of supplying the heroin mixture with water to Ron and then failing to summon medical assistance, leaving Ron unconscious, Ron would not have died (R v White 1910) Alan’s omission was also a more than minimal cause of death ( R v Cato 1976) and there was no intervening event. The essence of the matter which is supremely a jury question is whether having regard to the risk of death involved, the conduct of the defendant was as bad in all circumstances to amount in their judgment to a criminal act or omission. Lord Mackay, Adomako 1994) Alan’s conduct grossly negligent, he dealt with dangerous medicines and had risk undertaking a dangerous operation which resulted in the death of Ron. Thus, my answer differs, if Ron had self-administered drugs into his bloodstream, prepared by Alan, there would still be novus actus interveniens, as his gross negligence was a substantial cause of Ron’s death, with that being said, Alan may more likely be convicted with Gross Negligence Manslaughter.