R v Dalloway (1847) 2 Cox CC 273

Causation – negligence causing death – murder and manslaughter


Dalloway was standing on a horse and cart as it drove along a public road. Dalloway was not holding on to the reins as they were resting on the horse’s back. During his journey, a small child ran out in to the road in front of the cart and was killed by one of the wheels as it moved along. Dalloway was charged for driving his cart in a negligent fashion and subsequently causing the death of the child.


One of the key issues in this case was whether the result of Dalloway’s action had actually caused the death of the child. Justice Erle directed the jury that a negligent party, causing the death of another would be found to be guilty of manslaughter. On this basis, for Dalloway to be found guilty, the consequences of failing to hold the reins during his journey must have been considered to cause the death of the child. 


During the trial, expert evidence was produced which demonstrated that if Dalloway had been holding on to the reins tightly, he would not have been able to stop the cart before it collided with and killed the child. On this basis, the act Dalloway was culpable for (not holding the reins), was not the cause of the death of the child. As a result of this, the jury decided to acquit Dalloway, as they were satisfied that the child’s death could not have been avoided. The decision in this case was that Dalloway was not guilty.