Question: Keith and Ginger are both heroin addicts.
Their friends Janis and Kurt, have both indicated they would like to experiment with heroin. Keith prepares a syringe of heroin for both Janis and Kurt and passes a syringe to each of them. Kurt has previously watched Keith inject drugs, and feels confident enough to inject himself.
Janis, however is afraid of needles, and asks Keith to help her, which he does by injecting the heroin into her arm. Unfortunately, the dose of heroin which Keith has prepared is contaminated, and both Janis and Kurt die from a drug overdose. Whilst Keith attempts to dispose of the bodies, Ginger goes to confront Lenny, who had provided the heroin. Lenny is in his 60s and suffers from a heart condition. During their meeting, Ginger becomes enraged and slams his fist on Lenny’s desk, whereupon Lenny has a heart attack and dies. My job is to explain two things: ? Keith’s liability for the deaths of Kurt and Janis ? Ginger’s liability for Lenny’s death. Firstly, Involuntary manslaughter is the name that is given to a killing which is unlawful where the necessary mens rea for it to be made into a murder isn’t applicable to the crime, this means that the defendant didn’t have any actual intention to kill or do g.
b.h when the crime was committed. There are three different possibilities/categories of involuntary manslaughter: Manslaughter by an unlawful and dangerous act (also known as constructive manslaughter), Manslaughter by gross negligence, and Manslaughter with subjective recklessness as to the risk of death or bodily harm. Mens rea is the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused. As with voluntary manslaughter, if a defendant is convicted of involuntary manslaughter the sentence is at the discretion of the trial judge and the possible punishments can vary between things such as life imprisonment and an unconditional discharge.
This means that I have to judge whether or not I think that Keith intentionally meant to kill Kurt & Janis and if Ginger intentionally murdered Lenny and whether they should be judged to the highest degree for the crime and the crimes committed beforehand. With Gingers case, especially, there is a certain level of uncertainty as to whether or not a so called, unlawful act hs actually come about because it is very obvious that she didn’t actually mean any harm to Lenny, she was merely expressing her anger. The only loophole in this sense is the possibility that she may have meant to scare him or intimidate him when she slammed her hands down on her desk, this type of unlawful killing comes underneath the common law offence, under S39 Criminal Justice Act,1 of assault, 1988. Keith kills Janis but not necessarily Kurt. Keith does provide them both with the drugs which eventually take their lives, the crime committed in this context is possession and supply of a controlled drug to another person which is part of the S4(1)(B) Misuse of drugs act 19712 & is also, because of the fact that he injected Janis personally committed the unlawful act under S23, Offence Against the Person Act, maliciously giving out poison so as to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm3.
He is only, in my opinion, somewhat liable for one death, Janis’. As Keith personally injects the heroin into Janis’ arm whereas Kurt was confident enough to inject himself. Thet both overdose on the drug, but i feel as though Keith is only fully responsible for Janis’ death. On one hand, Keith has provided drugs to two people which eventually kills them both and injected one of them himself. On the other hand, Keith has no idea that the heroin is contaminated and although taking heroin, a class A drug is illegal in itself, he has no idea that the drugs he has obtained are contaminated enough to take someone’s life so therefore cannot be held responsible for the murder of both Kurt & Janis, in that sense, the dealer, Lenny, who provided Keith with the contaminated drugs is actually at least partly responsible for the death of Kurt & Janis directly as he may or may not be the original source of the heroin, it may become an endless chain of trying to figure out who got the drugs and from where. Keith should be given a reasonable person test in regards to Janis’ death. This test is used in order to figure out whether or not a crime is in fact an actual accident or an act of negligence, which is why you’re supposed to follow a certain standard of care, in this case the jury would have to consider whether or not helping somebody tke an illegal drug would in turn put their life at serious risk of death and if so it turns the crime from an actual accident into negligent behaviour which in turn would make Keith completely guilty of the crime at hand. A reasonable person’s test is very subjective, because a person of extremely low intelligence for example can still be held to the same standards of a person with a lot more intelligence such as it was in the case of R v Dawson & Others (1985) 81 Cr App R 150.
In this case, in terms of causation, Keith shouldn’t be held accountable for causation as both Janis & Kurt would have taken the Heroin regardless and despite the fact that he helped Janis take the Heroin, he would have eventually used it and therefore, killed himself. Also, Keith, once again, had no knowledge about the contaminated Heroin which killed them both so in this case, had Lenny been alive to go on trial, he would be accountable of causation. Gingers situation is somewhat similar to that in the case of R v Larkin, 29 Cr App R 184, in which a man caught his wife in bed with another man, grabbed a razor to threaten them both when his wife accidentally swayed, drunkenly, onto the razor and died. It is in some sense slightly different as she actually doesn’t do any actual physical harm to Lenny, she merely slams the table in anger which gives Lenny a heart attack, which she had no knowledge of beforehand, this makes this case more similar, in fact, to R v Watson (1989) 2 All ER 8655, in which burglars broke into a house containing an old, frail man who died from a heart attack because of the fact that he was being burgled and had abused shouted at him by the assailants before they fled, those burglars were held accountable for the murder and were told to be credited with the knowledge of the man’s heart condition even though they actually only became aware of it after the crime had been committed. This case is more relatable because once again, no actual physical harm was done to the victim before they died, they were merely scared or intimidate by the perpetrator into their death. In terms of causation, in my opinion Ginger should and would be held liable in a but for causation test as without her actions Lenny’s death would not have happened, so she should be held guilty of causation.
In relation to the case R v Larkin (1942) 29 Cr App R 186, Lord Salmon said “where the act which a person Is engaged in performing is unlawful, then if at the same time it is a dangerous act, that is, an act which is likely to injure another person, and quite inadvertently the doer of the act causes the death of that other person by that act, then he is guilty of manslaughter.”7 Basically, suggesting that if you are already engaging in criminal activity and end up, in doing so, being the cause of another criminal act, you should be fully held accountable despite the lack of knowledge. Bibliography: https://www.
uk/ukpga/1971/38/contents https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offences_against_the_Person_Act_1861 Criminal Law, 5th Edition, Janet Dine, James Gobert, William Wilson, 30/9/10 http://www.e-lawresources.co.uk/R-v-Watson.
php R v Larkin, (1949) 29 Cr App R 18. Lord Salmon, R v Larkin (1949) http://injury.findlaw.com/accident-injury-law/standards-of-care-and-the-reasonable-person.html http://e-lawresources.co.uk/R-v-Dawson-and-others.php R v Dawson and others 1985 81 Cr App R 150 http://e-lawresources.co.uk/Causation.php Barnett v Chelsea & Kensington Hospital (1969) 1 QB 428 Chester v Afshar (2004) 3 WLR 927