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Explain, by reference to decided cases, how the courts have approached the requirement of causation.

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Introduction

'Liability in criminal law normally requires the prosecution to establish that the accused has caused the relevant prohibited consequences or conduct to occur. For instance, in homicide, that the accused has caused the victims death.' Explain, by reference to decided cases, how the courts have approached the requirement of causation. (50 Marks) Within the English Legal System, the chain of causation is established via numerous principles, which have been recognised by case law, as the problem areas have come before courts. It is clear that when ascertaining whether the defendant is the person to fix liability, the courts will look at two main issues. The first being whether, the defendants conduct had actually resulted in the death of the victim and secondly whether the defendants conduct made him liable under English law. These two points together help to clarify whether or not a chain of causation exists. It has been made clear by case law that a defendant cannot be found criminally liable unless it is clear that he had made a significant contribution to the victim's death. In other words, implying that the victims conduct in itself must outweigh any other possible intervening act (novus actus intervenien) which may have occurred after the act in question. ...read more.

Middle

of a third party, there was no reason in principle why the act being involuntary should relieve accused of the criminal responsibility.' A further influential case in terms of causation would be that of Malcherek and Steel 1981 where the courts concluded that the victim's wounds were 'substantial and operating' and therefore the attack itself was the cause of death, consequently resulting in the conviction of murder being upheld. It's clear that the courts look at the event that started the chain of causation very closely and try to establish whether the attack in itself was the substantial cause of death, if so, then clearly the defence must accept liability. This is one of the many ways that the courts have approached the requirement of causation. Another form of defence, which is pleaded under the chain of causation, is that where the victim himself breaks the chain of causation by causing himself harm. It was applied in Roberts 1971 where it was made clear by the courts that the victim's action was rational as any other reasonable person may of jumped out of a moving vehicle if it was made apparent that they maybe under threat. ...read more.

Conclusion

This decision was put forward and illustrated in the case of Smith 1959 where the accused had also used the same defence but unfortunately, the courts refused to accept that the doctors act had broken the chain of causation even though they had displayed unsatisfactory behaviour when treating the victim. In this case, the courts claimed that the original wound was operating and a substantial cause' at the time of death and therefore the defendant would still be held liable. Its clear that the courts still remain bias towards the medical profession mainly because of policy issues and the idea of not wanting to lower the respect that the general public have for such people. The general rule has always been that the accused 'must take the victim as they may find them', and if it means that the victim refuses to accept treatment as in the case of Blaue 1975 the defence may try to put forward this argument of a break in chain of causation, but with little success as courts havent generally Public policy - medical conditions (take your victim as you find them) Where he aggravates his condition/refuses treatment Nadia Ullah 1 ...read more.

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