Omissions as actus reus

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Omissions as actus reus

Normal rule is that omissions can’t make a person guilty of an offence.

Exceptions to the rule –

  • A duty undertaken voluntarily
  • A duty through one’s official position
  • A duty which arises because D has set in a motion a chain of events
  • A duty because of a relationship
  • A contractual duty
  • A statutory duty

A statutory duty –

Act of Parl can create liability for a duty.

For example failure to report a road traffic accident, and or failing to provide a specimen of breath.

These offences can only be committed by failing to do something.

For example s1 of the Children and Young person’s Act 1933 puts the parents who are legally responsible for a child under duty for providing food, clothes, medical aid and lodging for their children.

A contractual duty - Where a person is under a contract to act, his failure can be a criminal offence.

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R v Pittwood (1902)

Pittwood was a railway crossing keeper and omitted to shut the gates. Having opened the gates to allow a cart to pass over the line he forgot to close it before going off to lunch. A few minutes later a passing train killed the driver of a hay cart as it was crossing the line. He was convicted of manslaughter as it was his job to keep the line safe.

A more modern example would be if a lifeguard left his post unattended to. His failure to leaving the post unattended could make him ...

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