R v Le Brun [1992] QB 61, [1991] 3 W.L.R. 653

Key point

  • An act to conceal a previous unlawful act is part of the same sequence of events as the previous act
  • Thus, where it was actually the second act that killed the victim, the fact that mens rea does not coincide in time is no defence

Facts

  • D punched his wife V on the chin, knocking her unconscious
  • D then attempted to move her body but accidentally dropped her
  • V sustained head injuries and died
  • D was convicted of manslaughter

Issue

  • Was D guilty although his intention to harm V did not coincide with the act that killed V?

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • Appeal dismissed; manslaughter conviction upheld

Lord Lane CJ

  • Where the unlawful application of force and the eventual act causing death are parts of the same sequence of events, the same transaction, the fact that there is an appreciable interval of time between the two does not serve to exonerate the defendant from liability
  • That is certainly so where D’s later act was designed to conceal the unlawful assault
  • Expressed in causation terms, the unlawful assault was a ‘but for’ cause and the later act did not amount to a novus actus interviens
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