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R v Evans (Gemma) [2009] EWCA Crim 650

Manslaughter by gross negligence – duty of care

Facts

Evans purchased heroin and gave it to her half-sister who later self-ingested the drug. Evans recognised that the victim had symptoms akin to those of an overdose and remained with her mother and the victim, without calling for medical assistance as they feared getting into trouble. They checked on the victim at intervals throughout the evening and when they awoke the following morning the victim was dead. The cause of death was poisoning from heroin. The primary dispute in the first instance was whether the supply of drugs to her half-sister had created a duty of care between Evans and her half-sister. The jury agreed that there was a duty owed and Evans was convicted. Evans subsequently appealed.

Issues

Evans submitted that the judge had erred in his instruction to the jury regarding duty of care in the circumstances and that it was inconsistent with previous authority to do so. Further, she argued that the judge was wrong to leave the question of duty of care to the jury and that doing so conflicted the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 Article 6 and 7.

Held

Appeal dismissed. It was held that none of the previous authority Evans referred to had dealt with manslaughter. Applying R v Adomako [1994] 3 All ER 79, R v Miller [1983] 2 AC 161 and R v Kennedy [2007] All ER (D) 247 (Oct), it was held that in cases of gross negligence manslaughter, if an individual caused or contributed to creating a life-threatening situation; a consequent duty would normally arise to take reasonable steps to save the person’s life. On the facts of this case, Evans created such a situation by providing the heroin to her half-sister and had not taken subsequent steps to negate the danger created.


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