R v Dyson – Case Summary

R v Dyson

Court of Criminal Appeal

Citations: [1908] 2 KB 454.


The defendant beat his child, causing a skull fracture and brain injury. These injuries would have, in the normal course of things, eventually killed the child. After serving his sentence for assaulting the child, he beat the child again. There was evidence that this second beating may have accelerated the child’s death from the original skull fracture.

The defendant was charged with manslaughter. He argued that the second beating had not caused the child’s death. This was because the child would have died from the original injury in due course. The first beating was not admissible as a cause of death due to the ‘year and a day’ rule.

  1. Was the second beating a relevant cause of the child’s death?

The Court of Appeal allowed the defendant’s appeal against his conviction. It was sufficient for the prosecution to show that the child would not have died at that particular time had they not suffered the second beating. However, the jury had not considered whether the second beating accelerated the child’s death. The court could not substitute its view of the evidence for that of a jury, and so had to allow the appeal.

This Case is Authority For…

When determining whether causation exists, it is enough to show that without the defendant’s acts or omissions, the proscribed result would not have happened at that particular time.

This means that the prosecution can establish a homicide offence where the defendant accelerates the death of a terminally ill person, for example.


This case also discusses the old ‘year and a day’ rule. This applied to homicide cases where the victim took a long time to die of their injuries. This rule is no longer good law.