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Gross negligence manslaughter, also known as unintentional murder, occurs when someone kills another person without intending to do so. Unacceptably careless behavior on the part of the defendant caused the fatality. It is essential to prove that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care in order for a case founded on gross negligence manslaughter to stand. Additionally, there must be evidence of a breach in the obligation of care that allowed the victim to pass away. Gross negligence involves a voluntary and conscious disregard of the necessity to apply reasonable care likely to result in a foreseeable harm to other people. On the other hand, ordinary negligence is just a failure to use rational care. According to Sir Edward Coke, a murder takes place when a person of sound mind and above ten years of age kills another with malice aforethought. The definitions as stated in this introductory section will guide arguments throughout the paper while also outlining applicable case laws in relation to the different factors in the case at hand.
Susie’s actions that came as a result of her being furious form part of a crime that she can be held liable for perpetuating involuntarily. From the narrative, it is clear that she was indirectly involved in Ahmed’s death and directly Jo by knocking him over. In this sense, Susie is likely to go through a trial for gross negligence manslaughter as she owed the people on the queue a duty of care when pushing her way forward. However, Ahmed had a pre-existing condition, and his death cannot be entirely blamed on Susie. Indeed, Dr. Boroman contributed to Ahmed’s death through failing to ensure that the ventilator tube was blocked.
The question comes as to the extent to which Susie caused the death of Ahmed. Although she causes physical harm to the old man, he was already unwell and had forgotten to consume medication for blood pressure. It, therefore, means that Ahmed was already at a health risk that could potentially lead to his death, with or without Susie’s unfortunate input. However, she was not warranted in a way that added more hazards and risks to the health of the senior man. Instead, she owed him a duty of care to avoid more perils that could result in his untimely death. For this reason; Susie’s actus reus comes in the form of breaching her duty of care that she owed both Jo and Ahmed.
The House of Lords in the United Kingdom put into consideration the mental state of the defendant in DPP v Smith case. The defendant was driving a car which had stolen property, and he declined to stop at the police officer’s demand. The officer jumped on the front side of the vehicle, and the driver drove for almost 100 yards. In the process, the car gained speed, pursuing an erratic course until the officer fell in front of approaching traffic and succumbed to injuries. The driver was charged with an account capital murder and was later convicted. However, the court of appeal recalled the conviction and replaced a decision of manslaughter, ruling that the trial jury was erroneous in the application of an objective test regarding the defendant’s intention.
The court argued that since individuals usually predict the most probable outcomes of their conducts, it is only rational and fair to infer that one foresees and expects a particular outcome. The House of Lords again reversed the Court of Appeal’s decision and reinstated the conviction for capital murder. The subjective awareness of the defendant in terms of the possible and natural outcomes of his actions and risk of death posed was deemed irrelevant. Provided that one has the mental capacity to form an intent, then he or she is rendered legally accountable for personal actions (Blom-Cooper 82). In relation to this case, Susie is likely to be held responsible for the criminal activity of causing physical harm on Ahmed and Jo. It is clear that she was in a sound state of mind, but was emotionally furious.
Susie’s incident of push and shove that led to physical harm and health deterioration on Ahmed was not the direct cause of his death. Ahmed was unwell and not taking medication as prescribed. When he was hospitalized, ultimate death was caused by a blocked ventilation tube that made him suffer from asphyxia, and he lost his life as a result. The incident in the hospital happened without catching the eye of Dr. Boroman. It can be seen as negligence on the part of the doctor because he was responsible for the patient’s safety and well-being while in the healthcare facilities.
In Adomako, R v (1994) HL, D an anaesthetist did not observe that in an eye operation, a tube placed in V’s mouth was not attached to the ventilator and this made the patient suffering from a cardiac arrest and later died. The court ruled that D caused manslaughter through gross negligence. The anaesthetist breached a duty of care towards the patient which resulted in death and hence this resulted in gross negligence. In the case, Lord MacKay LC stated that gross slackness depends on the gravity of breach of the duty of care as perpetrated by the defendant in different circumstances. In tandem with the case, Dr. Boroman’s breach of the duty of care towards Ahmed is seen as gross negligence which is likely to get him charged with an account of causing manslaughter.
Away from the actus reus, there is the element of mens rea in the case at hand. The latter involves the knowledge or an intention of wrongdoing which constitutes an integral part of a crime as opposed to the conduct or action of the defendant. In both Susie’s and Dr. Boroman’s situations, there lacks a clear piece of evidence insinuating that there was murder intention. However, both of them were knowledgeable about the consequences of their actions as it pertains handling other people.
In Hyam v DPP  AC 55, the accused person wanted to scare Mrs. Booth who was her opponent because of her likings for Mr. X. The defendant put burning paper in the complainant’s house mailbox, and the fire causes the death of Mrs. Booth’s two children. The perpetrator claimed that she did not intend to kill the children, but had predicted death or other serious bodily harms as results of her actions. The jury decided that the accused person was guilty on the account that she was aware of the possible outcomes of her actions; that third parties could be injured by such an act. Susie’s actions of push and shove are not likely to be rendered as possible causes of death in normal circumstances.
Most probably, she did not know that in the queue, there was a sensitive person who reacts severely negative to being knocked over. For this reason; she did not intend to cause death through the encounter in the line. She was only seeking to access services faster at the expense of other people. However, she was aware that knocking over other people can potentially cause physical harm to them. On the part of Dr. Boroman, he was not aware that the ventilator tube was blocked, but it was part of his work to ensure that all systems attached to the patient are functioning properly. In the narrative, it is stated that the doctor was very busy and hence did not check on Ahmed regularly. It is a clear show of professional negligence because impliedly, the doctor is aware that sensitive patients such as Ahmed required special attention in a bid to arrest any potential causes of death. The doctor is likely to be charged with gross negligence manslaughter that resulted in the death of Ahmed.
Ahmed’s death can be associated with the causation of an omission on the part of Dr. Boroman. The doctor was supposed to keep the patient in check on a regular basis and this way; he could have noted that the ventilator tube was blocked in time before Ahmed died. From the narrative, it is not stated that Br. Boroman intended serious harm or death on Ahmed. In this sense, there is no transfer of malice, and hence there is an oblique intent on the side of the defendant. It is so because Dr. Boroman should have foreseen the consequences of his omission of regular check-ups on the patient, but chose to ignore the probable outcomes.
In a lawsuit, both Susie and Dr. Boroman are likely to have partial defences on the charges placed on them. Ahmed’s death has been caused by different factors, and so it will be difficult to point a blaming figure to one particular individual. To some extent, Ahmed himself can be seen as a cause of his death because of the failure to comply with the doctor’s medication. In this part of the paper, there is an analysis on the possible defences that both of these parties could apply in trying to prove themselves innocent before the jury.
Partial defences have all the elements of murder, but when successfully litigated, they can reduce it to an act of voluntary manslaughter. The partial defences for this case include loss of control and diminishing responsibility (Clough 122). Although an individual’s acts may have contributed to another’s death, it is not an outright or automatic fact that one committed murder. Courts may reduce the original crime of murder to manslaughter. It is more so possible when it is proven that the alleged perpetrator of the death in question did not commit the act willingly. In this section of the paper, there is the outline of partial defences that are disposable to both Dr. Boroman and Susie.
Loss of Control
Justice Act of the year 2009 section 56 eradicated the common law justification of provocation and instead substituted it with sections 55 and 54. The defence is deemed as self-contained, and its roots in common law are irrelevant. The provisions apply to defendants who are indicted for killing where their actions of commission or omission resulting in the demise of a person. Pertaining to the claim of losing restraint, it is not a matter of if the loss was abrupt or not, but the willpower has to have been absent.
The partial defence is still presented in front of a bench even when there have been delays between the murder and the trigger incident (Clough 124). However, it is upon the judges to decide if the time delay was significant enough to deem the loss of control untenable and hence insufficient to be presented before court. Loss of control can apply to Susie’s case. She can argue that she was only furious with the post office members of staff but her actions hurt other third parties. It was not her intention to cause harm to Ahmed; rather it was only an accident that was caused by her short temper. In this sense, Susie can manage to convince the jury to reduce the murder case before her to voluntary manslaughter.
Loss of control defence cannot be availed to defendants who act as a result of vengeful motives against other individuals. The defence is inapplicable even in circumstances where the defendants lose self-control because of one of the qualifying triggers. Sufficient evidence has to be forwarded to the court in raising an issue regarding the defence where in the opinion of the court, the defence can be potentially applied in a case (Berman and Farrell 127). It means that the jury requires clear evidence blocking the application of the defence in case the court feels like the defence is applicable. There is a concern of law and hence a matter for the jury to decide whether enough evidence has been presented to in a bid to present the defence before the bench. The obligation of disproof is bestowed on the prosecution (Berman and Farrell 127). As long as the judge has accepted the application of the defence, it is upon the prosecutor to demonstrate the reason why it is inapplicable in a particular case. The prosecutor can argue that Susie did not lose self-control, rather it was an act of malice against the victim. In this sense, there has to be an unquestionable proof that it a fact.
In the final element of the loss of control defence, the effect on the accused person of sexual infidelity is not disqualified, and its account is supposed to certain cases where it is appropriate. In the case relating to Susie and Dr. Boroman, there are no elements of sexual harassments and other forms of infidelities. For this reason; this component may not be applicable in this case. Both accounts of gross negligence manslaughter are not in any way associated with the sexual behavior of either party in the case. The jury can only ignore this provision and look into the initial elements of the defence.
The defence of diminishing responsibility applies to accused persons charged with accounts of murder where either act of commission or omission has resulted in the death of a victim. The Justice Act of 2009 has three subsections that state circumstances under which a defendant is not to be convicted of murder. An abnormality in the functioning of mental systems of a person means that one is experiencing an extraordinary state of mind which a rational person could term as abnormal. It encompasses the capacity to unleash willpower or be in control of individual physical actions in line with reasonable judgment.
Susie can apply this defence if she can provide sufficient evidence showing that during the push and shove incident in the post office, she was not in her right state of mind. However, the court is not bound to admit medical proof as illustrated in R v Sanders  Crim LR 781. However, the law emphasizes the significance of expert evidence pertaining to psychiatric matters. In a situation where there is an unchallenged medical proof of diminishing responsibility, whereas there lacks another piece of evidence rebutting the defence, the trial chamber can withdraw the murder charges from the court as it was ruled in R v Brennan  EWCA Crim 2387.
In the defence, impairment has to be substantial, and there must be concrete evidence brought up by the defendant’s representatives. The aberration of mental running must have significantly impaired the defendant’s capacity to do multiple things such as exercising self-control, making rational decisions, and comprehending the nature of the conduct of the defendant. The court of appeal put into consideration the way a jury is supposed to be directed in relation to the phrase “substantial impairment” in In R v Golds  EWCA Crim 748.
According to the jury, the specimen direction in Crown Court Bench Book was equivocal. As a result, it led to juries admitting the submission that an anomaly of mental operation significantly impairs to more than a trivial extent. It was not in tandem with the line of authorities through which judges are supposed to be directed. In Susie’s case, the court has to determine whether she was furious enough to the extent that her emotions significantly affected her decision-making process. It is upon her to prove to the court that her mental condition at the moment was not stable and that is why she resorted to physical confrontations with people in the queue.
In the defence, the impact of alcohol taken by the defendant should be put into consideration. According to the Justice Act of 2009, it is not a requirement that the abnormality of mind has to be the only cause of death. Even if a defendant could not have committed murder, but did it because of additional effects of alcohol, the Act offers defence as demonstrated in R v Dietschmann (2003) 1 All ER 897. The impacts of alcohol are not deemed to contribute to the abnormality of mental functioning. Since murder is a criminal activity of intent, the defendant cannot illustrate diminishing responsibility from impaired judgment caused the consumption of alcohol (Mela, Mansfield and Luther 47).
If the defendant was highly drunk or drugged when committing murder, such he or she was not in a position to constitute an intent to cause severe physical harm or to kill, the individual is acquitted of murder charges (Mela, Mansfield and Luther 47). However, such an individual is liable for conviction of unlawful action of manslaughter as illustrated in R v Ahluwalia (1992) 4 All ER 889 where the jury established an association between provocation and diminished responsibility. Both Susie and Dr. Boroman have to illustrate to the jury that they were sober and did not intend to perpetrate Ahmed’s death. It will give them an added advantage in attempts to have the diminishing responsibility defence applied in their cases.
Unlawful Act Manslaughter
In the case of Dr. Boroman, it is possible to argue that there is an element of the positive action on his part that led to the death of Ahmed. He was offering healthcare services, but he was an extremely busy person in the hospital such that he was not able to offer the deceased close attention. In this sense, it is correct to consider constructive manslaughter on his part. The doctor lacked the intention of causing Ahmed’s death, and it is for this reason that constructive manslaughter applies to his case. He had placed the ventilator tube to save Ahmed’s life, and it was only for professional negligence that the patient lost his life. Also, constructive manslaughter applies to the doctor because the patient was already unwell and not pursuing the medical prescription offered by the physician.
Susie conducted an unlawful act that indirectly results in the death of Ahmed. The Physical push and shove in the post office can be termed as an assault on Jo and Ahmed, and hence she has a criminal case to answer. However, she can pursue the partial defence measures to distance herself with Ahmed’s death and show that she was not responsible for his death. Otherwise, she is likely to be convicted of murder and be detained for the rest of her life. It is upon her legal representation to convince the court to reduce the murder charges against her to manslaughter so that murder charges are dropped.
Berman, Mitchell N., and Ian P. Farrell. "Provocation manslaughter as partial justification and partial excuse." Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 52 (2010): 1027.
Blom-Cooper, Louis. Fine Lines and Distinctions: Murder, Manslaughter and the Unlawful Taking of Human Life. Waterside Press, 2011.
Clough, Amanda. "Loss of self-control as a defence: The key to replacing provocation." The Journal of Criminal Law 74.2 (2010): 118-126.
DPP v Smith  Court of Appeal (Court of Appeal)
'Coroners And Justice Act 2009' (Legislation.gov.uk, 2009) accessed 25 December 2017
Hyam v DPP  High Court (High Court)
Mela, Mansfield, and Glen Luther. "Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Can diminished responsibility diminish criminal behaviour?." International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 36.1 (2013): 46-54.
R v Adomako  House of Lords (House of Lords)
R v Brennan  EWCA Crim 2387  Court of Appeal (Court of Appeal)
R v Dietschmann  Court of Appeal (Court of Appeal)
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