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Discuss the problem of causation in criminal law and what rules have evolved to deal with the problem.

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Discuss the problem of causation in criminal law and what rules have evolved to deal with the problem. Causation in its basest terms is simply the remoteness of the act from the crime. This in itself has caused many problems with regard to legal argument and also subsequent loopholes that appeared within the criminal law. It has been established over many years and tried cases, that there must be a clear and unbroken link, or chain of events, that links the defendant to the criminal act. The first and most important point to be considered is "would the act have occurred anyway?" This is often referred to as the "but for" test. In simplest terms this means would the consequence of the defendants act have occurred in the same way at the same time 'but for' the defendants actions. If the answer to this question is 'Yes' then the defendant is not guilty of that crime, R. ...read more.


stabbing (V), because (A) would be an intervening act which has broken the chain of causation. R. v. Jordan (1956) This question of an intervening act has further refined in R. v. Smith (1959) which goes on to state that if the stab wound above was the "Operating Cause" of (V)'s death then (D) would still be guilty of murder. However, this had only served to open more questions rather than resolving them. Because as medical science advanced, more and more heroic efforts were being made to preserve life and mistakes and further complications were an inevitable side-effect. If (V) of the stab wound had died three months after the act due to late onset complications, which occurred after the visible wound had healed then surely (D) would be innocent, as the stab was no longer an operating cause. This was argued in R. v. Cheshire (1991) and the courts upheld Cheshire's conviction and stated "Only in the most exceptional circumstances would the accused be excused from causation by medical treatment." This opinion was reiterated in R. ...read more.


If the victim, against better judgement or due to some religious tenet refuses treatment, would our (D) still be guilty of murder, if (V) a devout Jehovah's Witness refused a transfusion? The answer to this is yes, and was illustrated in R. v. Holland (1841) and R. v. Blaue (1975) "you must take the victim as you find them." The final and un-argued question of causation is one of superfluous act. Was the defendants' act unnecessary in the light of events as they occurred? So, if we consider our defendant if he had stabbed (V) as part of a gang whom had repeatedly stabbed (V) and our (D) waited until everyone else had finished before he stabbed (V), the question to be considered is; if (V) dies, was it (D)'s stab which killed him because it was unnecessary? Or was he going to die as a result of a previous stab wound? This has as yet to be argued in court, what the outcome would be I have no idea, the only thing I can say for certain is, that I pity the defendants legal team. ...read more.

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The rules of causation have been set out, but the answer would benefit considerably by including the facts of the cases that have been identified. Without this detail, the problems of causation referred to in the question cannot be clearly explained.
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Marked by teacher Nick Price 06/06/2013

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