R v Jordan (James Clinton)
Court of Appeal
Citations: (1956) 40 Cr App R 152.
The defendant was convicted of murder after he stabbed a man in a café. The victim was taken to hospital where he was given excessive intravenous liquids as well as medication that he was allergic to. His doctors continued to give the victim the medication even after it became apparent that he was allergic to it. He later died of pneumonia.
Evidence which became available after the initial trial indicated that this negligent medical treatment was the immediate cause of death. In fact, the stab wound had largely healed by the time the victim died.
The defendant appealed his conviction. He argued that the stab wound did not ’cause’ the victim’s death because the negligent medical treatment broke the chain of causation.
- Did the intervening medical treatment break the chain of causation?
The Court of Appeal quashed the conviction. A jury with access to evidence concerning the negligent medical treatment would have been unable to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that the stab wound caused the victim’s death.
This Case is Authority For…
Death resulting from ‘normal treatment’ to deal with a criminal injury is regarded as being caused by that injury. The treatment will not normally break the chain of causation. However, where the treatment is ‘palpably wrong’ and is the ‘the direct and immediate cause of death’, this will break the chain of causation.
This is a case where factual causation existed, but not ‘legal’ causation. In other words, while the stab wound was a ‘but for’ cause of the victim dying (if he had not been stabbed, he would have not suffered the negligent treatment which killed him), the negligent medical treatment meant that the defendant was not to be regarded as legally responsible for the victim’s death.