Gross Negligence Manslaughter
A doctor’s negligent treatment of his patient resulted in death. ‘Gross Negligence’ was the basis for criminal liability. The test stated in that case was:
Does the conduct of the accused show such a disregard for the life and safety of others as to amount to a crime against the state and conduct deserving punishment?
It was stated that where there is a charge of gross negligence manslaughter, simple lack of care that would constitute to civil liability is not enough. For criminal law, a very high degree of negligence is required to be proved before the crime is established.
The statement made above was made by Lord Atkin, who 5 years earlier in the case of Donohue and Stevenson, had made the test for negligence in civil cases.
Donohue V Stevenson 1932
A snail in a ginger beer. The key case that established the principles of duty of care and the neighbour principle .
It was stated that a duty of care was owed to:
“... persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act and that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called into question”
A leading modern case on gross negligence manslaughter. In which the D was an anaesthetist during an eye operation. During the operation the tube supplying oxygen to the patient became disconnected. After suffering a heart attack, the patient later died as a result of brain injury.
It was testified at the trial that a competent anaesthetist should have noticed the disconnected tube within seconds. The D’s failure to do so was described as ‘abysmal’. His conviction for gross negligence was subsequently upheld by the House of Lords.
Adamako established the three elements required to prove gross negligence manslaughter: A duty of care exists on the part of the defendant towards the victim There is a breach of that duty, which causes death
The gross negligence is such as to be considered criminal by the jury
Duty of Care
Lord Mackay said in Adomako, that the ordinary principles of negligence in civil law should apply when ascertaining whether a duty of care existed and if so, if it was breached. Stone and Dobinson 1977
The defendants (common law husband and wife) were of low intelligence. One day they were visited by S's sister Fanny and took her in providing her with a bed but over the following weeks she became ill. She did not eat properly, developed bed sores, and eventually died of blood poisoning as a result of infection. The defendants had not obtained any medical assistance for Fanny although they had known that she was unwell.
The Court of Appeal held that the defendants had been under a common law duty to care for Fanny. This duty had arisen from their voluntarily assuming the responsibility for looking after her, knowing that she was relying on them. The defendants' failure to discharge this duty was the cause of the victim's death.
D a ship’s captain followed an unsafe course and relied too heavily on his engines even though he knew the fuel was contaminated. The ship foundered off the Cornish coast and three crew members were drowned. Three crew members died.
It is up to the jury to decide whether or not negligence is gross negligence even though negligently endangering a ship is a statutory offence. The question for the jury is whether it amounts to the crime of manslaughter. The D was guilty due to contractual duty of care towards the crew.
D managed a block of flats where one of the tenants died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The gas fires in many of the flats were unsafe, and there had been complaints from other tenants.
It was held that the D had a contractual duty to his tenants. The faulty gas fire had resulted in the deaths of some of D’s tenant.
D caused the deaths of 58 illegal immigrants travelling in...
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