R v Gibbins (Walter) – Case Summary

R v Gibbins (Walter)

Walter Gibbins and Edith Rose Proctor

Court of Criminal Appeal

Citations: (1919) 13 Cr App R 134.


The appellants were convicted of murdering a seven-year-old girl in their care after they allowed her to starve to death. Gibbins was the girl’s father, while Proctor was his mistress. The couple lived together with Gibbins’ children. Proctor hated the girl, and had a history of abusing her. Gibbins gave money to Proctor to look after his children, and claimed that he thought the child was looked after. Gibbins appealed his conviction for murder, arguing that he could only be guilty of manslaughter.

  1. What offence had Gibbins committed?

The court upheld the conviction. Despite his claims, Gibbins had to be aware of the girl’s condition since he lived in the same house. The jury had clearly inferred that he chose to ignore the girl’s condition due to his infatuation with Proctor. This was sufficient to conclude that Gibbins intended to cause the girl grievous bodily harm, which completed the mens rea of murder.

This Case is Authority For…

The mens rea of murder is intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. It is possible to commit the actus reus of murder by omission in cases where the defendant has a duty to act.


A person who takes responsibility for looking after a child has a duty to look after them, even if they are not a blood relative.