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Criminal Law problem question

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Preet L.
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  1. Introduction.
  2. Alan's position.
  3. Liability of Cathy and Derek.
  4. Liability of Big Sister.
  5. Conclusion.

This document provides an analysis in answer to a criminal law problem question relating to the law of murder and manslaughter. The problem is set out as follows:

Alan and Betty are contestants in the Big Sister game show. They do not get on and Alan feels that Betty is two faced. Betty has put Alan up for eviction three times and this week Big Sister has asked contestants to role play where some are servants and others act as masters.

Big Sister instructs the contestants acting as masters to humiliate the servants as much as possible. Alan has been assigned a role as servant and Betty as master, Betty makes Alan do many humiliating tasks including, making the beds, cleaning the showers and cleaning the toilet numerous times with a toothbrush. When Alan finishes cleaning the toilet for the third time, Betty decides to inspect and tells Alan that a fourth clean is required. Alan reacts badly and argues with Betty.

KEY WORDS: Murder, manslaughter, defences, provocation, causation, intervening act, gross negligence manslaughter, corporate manslaughter

[...] Unless Alan can establish that he did not have the necessary mens rea, it seems highly probable that he could be criminally liable for murder unless he can successfully rely on the partial defence of provocation under section 3 of the Homicide Act 1957, which by virtue of common law reduce his offence to manslaughter. In order to rely on the defence of provocation, Alan would have the burden of proving that something was said or done that provoked him to punch Betty[19]. [...]


[...] In order to advise Alan, Cathy, Derek and Big Sister Limited, I shall consider each party in turn and summarise with a conclusion of their potential liability under criminal law ALAN'S POSITION Alan could potentially be liable for murder or manslaughter under the law of homicide. The classic definition of murder under English Law was propounded by Sir Edward Coke[1], asserting the two stage definition requiring actus reus and mens rea: ?Murder is when a man, unlawfully kills within any country of the realm any reasonable human being under the Queen's peace, with malice aforethought?. [...]


[...] Under these codes of practice, there is a general duty to look after the welfare of the Big Sister contestants, coupled with a general common law duty not to imperil the lives of others. Accordingly, as producers and directors of Big Sister, both Cathy and Derek had a duty of care to Alan and Betty to ensure their safety. Furthermore, Cathy and Derek both delayed contacting security to resolve the conflict in order to boost ratings. This intervening action could have prevented Betty's death and as such, amounts to an acceptance of by Cathy and Derek of a duty of care, which must be carried out with reasonable care[32]. [...]

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