PRECEDENT SETTING CASE
The Queen v. Dudley and Stephens
(1884), 14 Q.B.D. 273
Court of Queen’s Bench, England
Facts: Thomas Dudley, Edward Stephens, and the deceased, a boy between seventeen and eighteen years of age, were set adrift in a lifeboat during a storm on the high seas 1000 miles from the nearest land. They had neither food nor water to subsist upon. For twenty days, they managed to survive by catching and eating a turtle and drinking rain water caught in their oilskin capes. On the eighteenth day, when they had been without food seven days and without water for five days, Dudley suggested to Stephens that lots should be cast to determine who should be put to death so the remaining two might live; the question was never put to the boy nor were lots ever drawn. Dudley and Stephens spoke of their families and about how the boy was in such a weakened condition and how he would likely die shortly from starvation. On the twentieth day, Dudley, with the assent of Stephens, put a knife to the helpless boy’s throat and killed him. For four days, they fed upon the body and blood of their victim, and on that fourth day, a passing vessel sighted the boat and rescued the two accused. According to the testimony at trial of the two accused, Dudley and Stephens, there was every probability that unless they killed the boy or one of themselves, they would all have died of starvation. They used the defence of necessity, which in Canada is used in life and death situations.
POSSIBLE CHARGES ARISING FROM THIS CASE IF IT HAPPENED IN CANADA: FIRST DEGREE MURDER
CONSPIRACY TO MURDER
CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE CAUSING DEATH
INTERFERING WITH A DEAD BODY
CONSENT TO DEATH
In the Canadian Criminal Code, under dead body, it says: “Everyone who improperly or indecently interferes with or offers any indignity to a dead human boy or human remains, whether buried or not is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term, not exceeding...
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