Criminal Law

Notes, cases, and materials on criminal law

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J Michael Haller

"There is no client as scary as an innocent man."

Pius Langa

"In the criminal law, impisonment should be resorted to only after the most anxious consideration."

Past Papers & Questions

Essay Questions:

Essay Questions

1. The law on attempted crime reflects conflicting justificatory rationales and has been clouded by unclear legislation and inconsistent case law. Discuss

2. The law relating to consent in sexual offences is unfair. Critically discuss.

3. The law relating to aiding and abetting a crime is confused. Critically discuss.

4. There are clear difficulties with the law of theft. Critically discuss.

5. To what extent has the law on intoxication as a general defence been developed to reflect policy concerns? Give reasons to support your answer.

Problem Question 1

Alex was refused a promotion at work by his boss Betty. Alex stormed into her office. In the office was a woman, sat at the desk with her back to the door. Alex shot her in the arm, thinking it was Betty. In fact it was Carol, who was in the process of stealing money from the desk drawer. A colleague next door heard the gunshot, and telephoned for an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, Carol refused to get inside. Instead she decided to walk home, even though she was bleeding. While crossing the road on the walk home, Carol was run over by a fire engine and killed. Betty had been bullying Alex at work for years. Since his promotion was refused a week ago, Alex had been unable to sleep.

Advise Alex.

Problem Question 2

David worked at a local museum as a cleaner. One evening he used his key to enter the museum after it had been locked up for the night. In one room there was a glass cabinet with a gold statue inside it. David smashed the glass cabinet, and put the gold statue in his bag. His plan was to pawn the gold statue. He needed the money to pay for an urgent operation on his niece. He intended to work overtime at the museum until he had earned enough money to redeem the gold statue from the pawn shop and return it to the museum. Out in the street, Emily was waiting in the get-away car. As David was coming out of the museum, he was grabbed by a passing policeman. In a panic, David hit the policeman over the head with the gold statue. At the pawn shop, David discovered that the gold statue was a worthless fake.

Advise David and Emily.

Problem Question 3

Fae was at the airport. She had an economy ticket to fly to Egypt. She had been drinking heavily. At the check-in desk, she told the clerk that she was a princess from Dubai, and wanted a first class seat on the plane. She was not a princess. She was a part-time hairdresser from Oxford. Gareth was next in line at the check-in desk. He had been chatting with Fae at the bar. Before that, they had never met. Gareth told the clerk at the check-in desk that he was Fae’s bodyguard, and also needed a first class seat on the plane. Neither of them got up-graded. When the plane was in the air, it was hijacked by terrorists. One of the terrorists was Gareth. He threatened to start shooting passengers unless Fae helped tie up the pilot. Fae was so afraid that she tied up the pilot too tightly, who suffered deep cuts to his arms.

Advise Fae.

Problem Question 4

Ena, an elderly woman, lives in her house with her lodger, Joan, aged 47. Joan suffers from severe learning difficulties. Joan is able to manage basic tasks, but Ena has helped her with more complicated ones, such as shopping, for many years. Joan becomes unwell and takes to her bed, but Ena increasingly finds it difficult to get up the stairs because of her arthritis. She gives up the attempt to take food upstairs for Joan and tries to ring their doctor for help, but becomes confused by the surgery’s automated answering service, which requires her to press a number of buttons on her telephone. She never speaks to her doctor and over time Joan becomes severely undernourished.

Joan's sister, Fran, who suffers from a bipolar mental illness, arrives for a visit while Ena is out and discovers Joan in a dreadfully neglected state. She calls for medical help. Ahmed, a paramedic, arrives in his emergency response vehicle and checks on Joan. He goes to the kitchen to tell Fran that Joan is not seriously ill and should go to hospital on the bus. Fran disputes this, and Ahmed retorts: `Well, you’re no one to judge, you’re half way round the bend yourself!’

Fran flies into a rage, grabs a vegetable knife and fatally stabs Ahmed. She runs away from the house. Before Ena comes back, Joan dies of dehydration and malnutrition.

Discuss the criminal liability, if any, of Ena and Fran.

Problem Question 5

Dan and Sue live next door to Jim. Jim’s house is badly neglected and shabby-looking, so they are afraid that this will reduce the value of their own. Sue hates Jim because he has criticised her for singing in her garden.

Another of their neighbours, Lucy, works for the council as a pest controller. Dan and Sue go to her house to ask her for some of the poison that she uses to kill rats. They tell her that they are going to teach Jim a lesson and that she should help because the value of her house will also be affected. They become quite aggressive and Lucy gets nervous, so she gives them a packet of rat poison.

Dan and Sue go outside and see that Jim is lying asleep in a deckchair in his front garden. Sue volunteers to add the poison to his coffee, and Dan warns her just to put in enough to make Jim sick. Sue deliberately pours a fatal dose into the coffee. Just as she is doing this, Dan changes his mind and tries to tell her to stop, but he whispers so as not to wake Jim and Sue does not hear him.

Jim awakes, drinks the coffee and dies.

Discuss the criminal liability, if any, of Dan, Sue and Lucy.

Problem Question 6

Malik and Noreen, students at St Custard’s University, argued with a fellow student, Ozzie, about loud music emanating from his room at night. While waiting to go into a lecture theatre the next day, Malik complained to his friend, Petra, about Ozzie’s behaviour and said that if Petra were to drown Ozzie in the campus lake, it would be a good thing. Petra told Malik that if Ozzie bothered her as well she would certainly make sure he never did it again. After the lecture Noreen talked to her friend, Quentin, whom she knew sometimes enjoyed getting into fights. Noreen said to him, ‘If you think you’re tough, put Ozzie in hospital so he stops ruining my sleep!’

Late that evening, Petra went to Malik’s room. They agreed that if Ozzie started playing his music loudly Petra would go and threaten him with a knife that Malik had found in the kitchen, using it to stab Ozzie ‘if necessary.’ Unbeknown to either of them, the knife was blunt and the blade was of very poor quality. After waiting for several hours without the music starting, Malik became angry and said to Petra, ‘If you don’t go and deal with Ozzie right now, I’ll report you for cheating in your assessed essays and I’ll push you under a bus tomorrow!’ Petra then left Malik’s room and knocked on Ozzie’s door. When Ozzie opened the door, Petra lunged at him with the knife but slipped over and fell to the floor, missing Ozzie.

The next day, Quentin went looking for Ozzie. Quentin’s plan was to provoke an argument so as to have a pretext for hitting Ozzie. At lunchtime, Quentin spotted Ozzie on the other side of the cafeteria and started walking towards him to carry out his plan, but halfway across the room a lecturer stopped Quentin to congratulate him for his excellent essay on the psychology of memory. Quentin then forgot all about Ozzie and went home.

Discuss the criminal liability, if any, of Malik, Noreen, Petra and Quentin.

Problem Question 7

Rich went to visit the grounds of Windsor Castle. He climbed over the back fence in order to avoid paying the entrance fee by the front door. He did not know that there was no charge for visiting the grounds anyway on that particular day. His plan was to pick-pocket wallets from the visiting tourists.

Once inside, he noticed a small gold clock on a table. He put that in his bag, and started walking towards the exit. In order to distract the guards, he activated the fire alarm. As he had guessed, this also set off the sprinklers, which made water stains on the rugs on the floor. Bill, one of the guards chased him, but just as he got close, Rich grabbed an ornamental sword from the display and lunged at Bill, causing him severe cuts on the arm and face.

Once outside the castle, Rich walked to the nearest jewellers. He sold them the clock for £1,000, saying that it was left to him by his grandmother in her will. Rich was later arrested by the police who identified him from the security video at the castle. They also recovered the clock from the jewellers. Rich told the police that he needed the money to pay for a life-saving medical operation for his five-year-old daughter.

Discuss Rich’s criminal liability, if any.