R v Michael – Case Summary

R v Michael

Assizes Court

Citations: 173 ER 867.


The defendant bought a bottle of laudanum. She directed a third-party who looked after her son to give the child a teaspoon each night, telling them that it would be good for them. In fact, the defendant knew that the poison would kill the boy. The third-party failed to administer the laudanum, and instead but the bottle on her mantlepiece. There, another child found it and gave some to the defendant’s son, who died as a result.

The defendant was charged with murdering her son. She argued that she had not caused the boy to die, because the laudanum had been administered by another person.

  1. Did the defendant cause her son to die?

The Assizes Court held that the defendant had caused the boy to die. The child’s act of administering the poison was to be treated as if the defendant had administered it herself.

This Case is Authority For…

Where the defendant intends to perform an act, and does so through an innocent third party, the third party’s act is treated as if it was the defendant’s own.