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Criminal Law - Question One

Issue: The issue within the scenario is related to the determination of criminal liability for Chandler based on the Mariam’s death.

Rule: Involuntary manslaughter as a rule of law, which is predominantly governed by precedents and has been derived from the traditional common law of crimes within the United Kingdom.

Application: The case scenario presents Chandler, the head chef of a prestigious restaurant catering to a group of eight including Mariam. Chandler has been informed that Mariam has a serious allergy to a particular type of nut, and runs the risk of serious harm and even death upon being exposed to even a small quantity of the nut. While Chandler is familiar with special dietary requirements, he is accustomed to using a special ingredient which includes certain nuts. However, he is not sure whether or not the ingredient comprises the nut that Mariam is allergic to and decides to prepare the dishes using the special ingredient anyway, fully knowing that if the ingredient did contain the particular nut, Mariam would be at the risk of dying. It is the first point of incidence where gross negligence is depicted by Chandler, which later would go on to extend on the criminal liability of involuntary manslaughter upon the death of Mariam. While it is important to note that involuntary manslaughter is a criminal charge, it does not include the aspect of mens rea or the motive behind the actus reus or the criminal act. Based on the wide number of precedents and judicial reports, involuntary manslaughter within the United Kingdom has primarily come to be classified into to distinct categories comprised of gross negligence manslaughter and unlawful or dangerous act manslaughter.

Recklessness is one of the key fundamentals within the concept of involuntary manslaughter, as depicted by the negligent behaviour of Chandler to use the ingredient while knowing there were nuts and a particular type of nut could be fatal for Mariam. Considering he was preparing the meals for the guests including Mariam, he inherently comprised of a duty of care both in terms of statutory law and the principle of neighbour as established in the case of “Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562.” Furthermore, Chandler’s profession warrants him to exercise a reasonable standard of care as required of a head chef of a prestigious restaurant as would be expected from any other reasonable person within a similar profession. The case of “R v Bateman (1925) 19 Cr App R 8” is relevant in this context as it led to the establishment of the widely acknowledged Bateman Test, which is often used by courts within the United Kingdom to decided cases involving involuntary manslaughter. The judgement saw the Court of Criminal Appeal establish a four point test that could be assistive towards determining the criminal liability for Chandler. Key fundamentals within the test include a duty of the defendant to take care, a distinct breach of the duty, the death of the deceased due to the breach of the duty and a gross negligence amounting to disregard for the life and safety of the deceased by the defendant.

The fact that Chandler was preparing the meal for the group of guests inherently entailed a standard duty of care that he should have maintained, thus fulfilling the first element of the Bateman Test. Subsequently, failing to not use the ingredient while knowing that it included nuts and a particular type of nut could be fatal for Mariam fulfils the second requirement. Mariam also starts showing symptoms and eventually dies due to the allergic reaction from the nuts, thus fulfilling the third requirement of the Bateman Test albeit the paramedics and the senior doctor contributed to the negligence involved. Lastly, the disregard for human life depicted by Chandler when choosing to use the special ingredient to enhance the flavour of the item while being absolutely aware of the potential risk that it could lead to for Mariam fulfils the fourth requirement of the Bateman Test. It could therefore be concluded that a criminal liability of involuntary manslaughter would be imposed upon Chandler during the proceedings based on the facts presented within the scenario.

The scenario also involves the calling of the paramedics upon Mariam showing symptoms of allergic reactions to the specific type of nut. They arrive by a helicopter and administer certain medication to Mariam, who is already presented to be in a very serious condition by this time. Mariam is then depicted as being taken into the helicopter to be rushed to the hospital, where she is administered another drug by the paramedic, which should not have been given to a person suffering from a particular type of nut allergy. Naturally, her condition worsens when she is brought to the hospital and is placed on a life support machine. The incident would amount to gross negligence leading to medical manslaughter, whereby the Bateman Test could be relied upon to determine the criminal liability on the paramedic who administered the drug to Mariam while she was being airlifted to the hospital. The judgment passed in the matter of “R v Adomako [1995] 1 AC 171” is widely considered to be the legal criteria based on which cases of medical negligence is determine in the modern date.

It comprised of two elements in the context of gross negligence amounting to medical manslaughter, including the seriousness of the breach of the duty by the defendant where a distinct departure from the proper standard of care is evident and the circumstances within which the defendant was placed when it occurred. Considering the propositions, the paramedic being a medical professional, would be expected to comprise of accurate information regarding the administering of drugs to patients suffering from a specific nut allergy. Additionally, the circumstances in terms of being in a helicopter while carrying Mariam to the hospital would not be considered as paramedics are trained to tackle emergency situations, often through the reliance on a helicopter in serious cases. Naturally, the paramedic would be imposed with the criminal liability of gross negligence leading to Mariam’s death, albeit in a contributory manner as the paramedic would not have been required had Chandler managed to maintain a standard duty of care.

Furthermore, the case also presents a senior doctor who advises a junior doctor to switch of Mariam’s life support machine during the night. The decision is later identified as a mistake in terms of how the instruction to switch off the life support machine should never have been given. Naturally, both the senior and the junior doctors would be charged with the criminal liability involuntary manslaughter based on the Adomako case as discussed above due to gross negligence, which eventually contributed to the death of Mariam.

Conclusion: Chandler would prima facie be charged of involuntary manslaughter due to the failure to maintain a standard of care in preparing the dishes and not using the ingredient when he was aware that it contained nuts and could be threatening to the life and safety of Mariam.

Subsequently, the paramedic who administered the drug to Mariam on the helicopter and the senior and junior doctors would also be held liable for medical negligence amounting to involuntary manslaughter in a contributory manner.

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