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Criminal Law Omissions. In the English legal system there is generally no liability for an omission to act, the English legal system does not have a good Samaritan rule neither is there no duty of easy rescue.

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Introduction

In the English legal system there is generally no liability for an omission to act, the English legal system does not have a 'good Samaritan rule' neither is there 'no duty of easy rescue'. Fitzjames Stephen gave a classical example of 'A seeing B drowning and is able to save him by holding out his hand. A abstains from doing so in order that B may be drowned, A will have committed no offence.'1 This example clearly shows that there is no positive duty for B to act, even though B holding his hand out may have saved A's life. This is a controversial issue as the law allows one to watch a person drown without them being prosecuted for any offence. However in some European countries this is different such as in France and Germany where there is a duty of easy rescue and failure to do so will amount to a criminal offence2. As I have earlier said generally there is no liability for failing to act, however there are six exceptions and if a person fails to act then they will be committing a criminal law offence, there is a vast amount of case law in this field which will be used to illustrate the exceptions to an omission. The first exception I will discuss is a special relationship, this is where the law will require an individual to act where there is a special relationship, it is generally recognised the more closer the relationship the more likely the law will impose a duty. ...read more.

Middle

her own room, she would not eat and keep herself locked in for days at a time, Stone and Dobinson tried to find her doctor but with no luck, Fanny's condition meanwhile was getting worse and Stone and Dobinson did not have the capacity to solve the issue, they asked a neighbour Mrs Wilson to help wash Fanny, they even asked her to help find a doctor and make calls but still no attempt was successful, Stones Sister passed away and Stone and Dobinson were found guilty of manslaughter because of an omission , as they had not taken proper care of Fanny. A case like Stone and Dobinson, the verdict may seem unfair to punish a couple of clearly low capacity to even look after themselves let alone Stones ill sister. The issue could have been resolved with social services intervention who failed to keep an eye on this family, Lord Lane CJ made it clear that as the family had tried to feed her and also care for her then they must be responsible, as they had voluntarily assumed duty. Another time when there is a duty created for one to act is a 'duty to avert danger created', the law will impose a duty on a defendant to act to avert danger that he has created, even if it was an innocent mistake the law will require the defendant to avert this danger, a hypothetical example could ...read more.

Conclusion

or should it be the conventional view which Williams favours and not save B. Ashworth also believes that the whole society will benefit from a duty of easy rescue.21, he also believes that liability should be limited to those who had a greater opportunity to save B. Professor Williams however believes this will not work, as what will happen if 50 people watch B drown, will all of these people be liable? Sending 50 people into court would be a huge logistical issue and would certainly clog up the courts system. In 1980 there was an effort to reform the law on omissions by the Criminal Law Revision Committee who wanted to iron out the controversial issues and make the law more simpler and straightforward by only imposing omissions for murder, manslaughter, causing serious injury (gbh), kidnapping and abduction. The Law commission in 1989, 9 years after this report proposed a general provision on omissions which would not be limited to the crimes in the 1980 report by the Criminal Law revision committee. And they wanted generally to add causation more into the Actus Reus of the crimes and also tie in the omissions element, to make the law more straightforward. However these reports were published more than 2 decades ago, and the law on omissions remains unchanged and it is likely it will remain this way for the foreseeable future. ...read more.

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4 star(s)

Well done.

This student really understands the six categories of omissions-based conduct that might amount to criminal behaviour.

To improve the mark, the student should make reference to less commonly cited, and recent, case law.

High 4 Stars.

Marked by teacher Edward Smith 17/09/2013

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