R v Watson [1989] 1 W.L.R. 684, [1989] Crim LR 733

Key point

  • If D becomes aware of the vulnerability of the victim during his unlawful act, when determining whether a sober and reasonable person would find physical harm to be likely, the person has that knowledge


  • D broke into the house of an 87-year-old, verbally abused him, and left without taking anything
  • V had a serious heart condition and later died of a heart attack
  • D was convicted of constructive manslaughter, the unlawful act was burglary
  • D appealed, one ground being that burglary is committed at the point of entry, at which time he did not know the age or physical condition of the occupier

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • Appeal allowed – the above ground of appeal was rejected but appeal was allowed on another ground that is not relevant here

Lord Lane

  • The act of burglary does not end when D crosses the threshold of the premises
  • The jury were entitled to ascribe to the bystander the knowledge which the appellant gained during the whole of his stay in the house
  • A sober and reasonable person would have recognised V’s vulnerability at once