How to establish unlawful manslaughter in this scenario Watch
going to hit him on the head with it and kill him. Panicked, he grabs one of the
poles for his tent from his bag, and swipes at Sarah’s legs to try to knock her down. Sarah stumbles and falls, hitting her head against a tree stump. She falls
unconscious. Robbie tries to revive her, but although she is still breathing, she
doesn’t wake up. In a panic, Robbie grabs his bag, and the map and compass,
and flees the scene.
Two hours later he makes his way back onto a path that leads to a road. He hails
down a passing car and tells them that rescue is needed for his friend who fell
and hit her head. By the time help arrives Sarah is dead. A post-mortem shows
that she died from a poisonous snake bite sustained whilst lying unconscious.
It is clear that Robbie did not intend to kill her, but rather acted in self defense and in doing so he lead to her death. The snake may break the chain of causation but inevitably it was Robbie that left her on the floor unconscious which should make him guilty for manslaughter.
But how do you legally establish that?
In relation to UAM the actus reus is an unlawful and dangerous act which causes the death of another person and the mens rea is the same as that of the base offence which causes the death, i.e. assault battery s.47, s.20, s.18 etc.
Unlawful - Attack was done in self defence
Dangerous - This is defined in Church as whether a sober and reasonable person would realise the risk of some harm. Dawson says that this needs to be physical harm. The case of JM & SM states that they need not realise the type of harm or the way it comes about so long as it is foreseeable and the Bystander test from Watson. Clearly a sober and reasonable person would realise the risk of some harm from hitting someone with a pole it does not matter whether the harm came from the pole or the tree as it was foreseeable.
Causation - Using the 'but for' test in white she would not have died in those circumstances as she would be conscious. Using the legal causation test she would not be a operating and substantial cause as in Smith because the snake bite was a novus actus intervenien which would break the chain of causation, using the case of Gowens (natural events breaking the chain of causation). However I would strongly argue that it may actually not break the chain of causation. As it would be foreseeable that this could happen in a forest and so may not reach the threshold required.
Mens rea - Clearly has the MR for a battery from swinging the pole.
Either way it can't be established due to the issue of self defence.