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Criminal | Offences Against The Person

Murder: Actus Reus

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Murder: Actus Reus

[Flash Card 1 of 2]

  • .. the unlawful killing of a reasonable person in being and under the King's peace with malice aforethought, express or implied... (Sir Edward Coke)
  • three elements: unlawful killing / a reasonable person in being / under the King's peace

Unlawful Killing:

  • not justified / not authorised
  • omission only liable / under duty to act / failed to do so
  • contract / railway worker (Pittwood)
  • special relationship / child starvation (Gibbins & Proctor)
  • instigating chain of events / squatter (Miller)
  • voluntarily taken on / family (Stone & Dobinson)
  • public position / policeman (Dytham)

Reasonable Person in Being:

  • how categorise life / application of the law
  • foetus (AG Ref (no 3 of 1994) 1997)
  • life support machine

Under the King's Peace:

  • exemption for killing in war
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Murder: Actus Reus

[Flash Card 2 of 2]


  • D's guilty act caused V's death / rules of causation applied
  • no causation / act is not unlawful / no criminal liability

Factual Causation:

  • guilty if consequence / would not have happened / but for D's conduct
  • D cyanide mother's drink / she had heart attack before took effect / guilty attempted murder only (White)
  • D girlfriend human shield / guilty manslaughter (Pagett)

Legal Causation:

  • link between act & consequence / chain of causation must be unbroken
  • D's conduct cause of death / more than minimal / not substantial
  • contributed can be sufficient / heroin addicts (Cato)
  • thin skull rule / general principle / D take V as he finds them
  • V's religious beliefs / refused treatment & died / held mental & physical characteristics included / D caused V's death (Blaue)
  • novus actus interveniens / new intervening act / can break chain causation
  • medical intervention / only if seriously wrong / doctor palpably wrong (Jordan)
  • errors made / trying to care for V / may not break the chain of causation (Smith)
  • rare complications / not independent of original act / chain causation not broken (Cheshire)
  • victim's own act / if foreseeable not break causation (Roberts)
  • is victim's own act / ..within the ambit of reasonableness.. (Williams)
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