R v Morby – Case Summary

R v Morby

High Court

Citations: (1882) 8 QBD 571.


The defendant’s son died of small pox. For religious reasons, the defendant refused to seek medical assistance for the boy before he died. The jury was told that medical assistance might have saved the boy, or extended his life, but it was also not unlikely that it would not have helped at all.

The jury convicted the defendant of manslaughter. The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the prosecution had failed to prove that his actions caused or accelerated the boy’s death.

  1. Was the defendant rightfully convicted of manslaughter?

The High Court quashed the conviction. The jury had to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant’s actions caused or accelerated death. In this case, the evidence did not show that the boy would have been saved had he received medical help. It only showed that he might have been saved. This was not enough to sustain a manslaughter conviction.

This Case is Authority For…

When dealing causation in criminal law, the jury must be satisfied that the defendant’s contribution did in fact cause the proscribed result. It is not enough that the outcome might have been different if the defendant had acted differently.