Factual Causation In R V White
In order to establish criminal liability, the actus reus must generally be proved. The actus reus of an offence are comprised with the prohibited conduct, the relevant circumstances, the consequence and causation. Causation is one of the four elements of actus reus. Causation in the criminal context is concerned with the legal attribution of criminal responsibility for consequences.
Homicide is a result crime in the sense that the defendant must be proved to have caused the victim’s death. There is two matter have to be considered. The first is did the defendant in fact cause the victim’s death, that the factual causation, and the second is if so, can he be held to have caused it in law, that the legal causation.
Factual Causation …show more content…
However, the case of R v White illustrates how problems can arise. The defendant placed potassium cyanide in a glass containing his mother’s drink. She drank the contents of the glass but died of heart failure before the poison could take effect. The defendant was charged with murder and convicted of attempted murder. As regards factual causation, the defendant’s act in placing the poison in his mother’s drink did not in any way cause her death. If applying the ‘but for’ test and asked but for the defendant’s act would his mother have died, the answer would obviously have to be in the affirmative. She would have died anyway, so the factual causation is …show more content…
English law separates causation into two parts: factual causation and legal causation. The former often known as 'but for ' causation by asking but for the act of the accused, would the victim be dead. If so, it would consider the second issue that is legal causation by usually asking did the accused contribute significantly to the death and may take into account of the thin-skull rule that 'the accused must take his victim as he finds him’.
In general a novus actus interveniens will break the chain of causation. This long-accepted statement of the law has come under increasing strain in recent years, especially in relation to suppliers of drugs present at the death of the drug-taker, but authorities which are to the effect that the accused remains guilty even when the victim refuses medical treatment may be seen as similar.
Some causation cases exemplify the desire of the courts to convict those who have created dangerous situations even when the actus reus and mens rea are not contemporaneous. Once the prosecution has proved causation, all the other elements of the actus reus must be