Criminal Law- Question Problem

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Problem Question: Discuss the criminal liability of Faisal, Azad, Chuck and Bill.

In this case, the victim firstly faced several physical attacks in an alley, and was later killed through repeated hits on the head with a cricket bat. This essay covers the respective liabilities of the principal offender Azad, followed by his accomplices Chuck and Bill, and lastly the shopkeeper who provided the murder weapon, Faisal.

The principal has committed the crime of murder by unlawfully killing another person in the Queen’s peace. The defendant had the required mens rea that is either the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm, in circumstances where finding an intention on the evidence of virtual certainty is left to the jury (Woollin). The evidence suggests that the principle purchased a cricket bat (which is not an illegal weapon to possess under English law) with an intention to beat the victim unconscious. His intention to cause grievous bodily harm didn’t change when he formed a joint enterprise with his two other friends. Then the question left for the jury is whether it was virtually certain that his voluntary actions could result in the death of the victim. The answer seems to be the affirmative. The principal can raise defences to decrease his conviction to manslaughter, but they have a small chance to succeed. For instance, the defence of loss of control requires a qualifying trigger (as described in Coroners and Justice Act 2009, s55), the gross negligence manslaughter requires a duty of care, whereas diminished responsibility requires an abnormality of mental functioning (Coroners and Justice Act 2009, s1) and none can be satisfied in this case. Hence, the principal will be convicted of murder.

The secondary party Chuck formed a joint enterprise, which is defined as two people sharing a common purpose (Gnando), either expressly or impliedly, to commit an offence that is planned or spontaneous (Greatrex and Bates). Here, there seems to be a planned and expressly agreed joint enterprise. In light of this information, Chuck can be charged with attempted grievous bodily harm, attempted murder (Criminal Attempts Act 1981, s1), and murder from derivative liability (Powell and English).

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Firstly, the law on attempts, as covered by the Criminal Attempts Act 1981, defines the actus reus as ‘doing an act more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offence’, whereas the mens rea is ‘having an intention to commit the full offence’. Then the actus reus of attempted GBH can be inferred as ‘doing an act more than merely preparatory to cause really serious bodily harm’. And mens rea would be ‘intending or foreseeing some kind of harm can be caused’ (Cunningham recklessness). Thus, it is likely that the jury will convict Chuck for throwing a brick at the victim.

Secondly, Chuck can ...

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