Notes from today's High Court session

At about 18.30, D and V had an argument. V punched D. D staggered and attempted to launch a punch towards V’s chest, but V took a step backwards, so the punch either (a) did not connect or (b) connected rather poorly (witness statements differ on this point). Either way, the effect was to put V off balance. At this point, D’s brother D2 stepped in and punched V in the face. V fell to the ground and his head hit the concrete. V suffered a concussion and a fractured skull, but was not given any medical attention until a few minutes past midnight. That same night V died from oedema in the brain.

Both D and D2 were charged with manslaughter. D2 pleaded guilty, D pleaded not guilty.

  1. Can D argue that D2’s punch was an intervention, a novus actus interveniens, that broke the chain of causation between D's attempted punch and V’s death?
  2. Can D argue that his attempted punch was an act of self-defence, meaning that this was not a culpable act to which the death of V can be attributed?
  3. Can D argue that V would have hit the ground and sustained the same injuries even if D had not launched his attempted punch (a reverse ‘but for’ test)? 

We shall find out in the coming days, and hopefully we will not have too many adjournments. 

Marcus Baltzer

Postscript: Once the prosecution had presented its case, D filed a 'no case to answer' motion. The High Court ruled that D indeed had no case to answer, as the evidence put forward by the Crown was never going to be sufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt that D's actions had contributed substantially to V's death.