R v Bradshaw – Case Summary

R v Bradshaw

Crown Court

Citations: (1878) 14 Cox CC 83.


The defendant was playing football with the victim. In an ill-judged tackle, the defendant kneed the victim in the stomach. This injured the victim in a manner which led to his death. The defendant was charged with unlawful act manslaughter.

  1. Was the defendant acting unlawfully by tackling the victim?

The judge directed the jury that it was possible for the victim to have consented to the risk of harm, which would render the act lawful. This would depend in part on whether the defendant was acting with ‘malicious motive or intention‘, which the jury might infer from whether the defendant acted within the rules of the game or not. On this basis the jury acquitted the defendant.

This Case is Authority For…

Bramwell LJ stated that:

‘if a man is playing according to the rules and practices of the game and not going beyond it, it may be reasonable to infer that he is not actuated by any malicious motive or intention, and that he is not acting in a manner which he knows will be likely to be productive of death or injury. But, independent of the rules, if the prisoner intended to cause serious harm to the deceased, or if he knew that, his act might produce serious injury and was indifferent and reckless as to whether he would produce serious injury or not, then the act would be unlawful.’


The judge also noted that the mere fact that a game or activity is subject to rules and regulation cannot make an unlawful attack lawful.