R v Kennedy [2007] UKHL 38, (2008) Crim LR 222

Key point

  • A voluntary and informed choice by the victim breaks the chain of causation

Fact

  • Kennedy prepared a syringe of heroin for Marco Bosque, Bosque injected himself and died
  • Kennedy was convicted for manslaughter

Held (House of Lords)

  • Appeal allowed; conviction overturned
  • Bosque had made a voluntary and informed choice to inject himself which amounted to a novus actus interviens

Lord Bingham

  • ‘The criminal law generally assumes the existence of free will. The law recognises certain exceptions, in the case of the young, those who for any reason are not fully responsible for their actions, and the vulnerable, and it acknowledges situations of duress and necessity, as also of deception and mistake. But, generally speaking, informed adults of sound mind are treated as autonomous beings able to make their own decisions how they will act, and none of the exceptions is relied on as possibly applicable in this case. Thus D is not to be treated as causing V to act in a certain way if V makes a voluntary and informed decision to act in that way rather than another.’: [14]

Commentary

  • Had Kennedy injected Bosque himself he would have been responsible
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