R v Roberts (1971) 56 Cr App R 95
Assault OccasioningActual Bodily Harm – Causation – Foreseeability – Novus Actus Interveniens
After a party the male defendant R, gave the female victim a lift in his automobile. The victim and the defendant had not met before. The defendant began making sexual advances towards the victim which were rejected before attempting to pull off her coat. The victim then opened the door and jumped out of the moving vehicle sustaining injuries as a result. The defendant was charged with sexual assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm and was convicted at trial of assault occasioning actual bodily harm but acquitted of sexual assault. The defendant appealed.
Was the defendant guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm? Was the defendant responsible both in fact and in law for the injuries caused by her leaving the moving car? Was the trial judge correct to direct the jury that they could convict the defendant if they considered that the victims actions caused the victim’s injuries as a result of the victim’s behaviour being a natural consequence of the defendant’s acts?
The defendant’s appeal was dismissed. The trial judge was right to direct the jury that they could convict if they thought the victim’s act had been a natural consequence of the defendant’s actions. The test for whether a victim’s own acts were not to be considered capable of breaking the chain of causation was whether the act was a natural consequence or result of what the assailant did or said? If the victim’s act was so unexpected that it could not be foreseen by a reasonable man then the act would be a remote and unreal consequence of the assault and as such would then break the chain of causation.