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R v Dalby (1982) 74 Cr App R 348 Court of Appeal

The appellant had supplied Stefan O'Such, with Diconal tablets. Both had injected themselves with the tablets in solution. They then went to a discotheque where they parted company. O'Such subsequently met a friend who helped him on two occasions to administer intravenous injections of an unspecified substance to himself. O'Such then returned home to his flat where he fell asleep on the sofa. An attempt to wake him the next day was unsuccessful. Dalby was prosecuted for manslaughter and convicted on the basis that his supply of the Diconal tablets was an unlawful and dangerous act which caused the death of O'Such.


Held:

His conviction for manslaughter was quashed. The supply of drugs was not the cause of death. It was the deceased's act of injecting himself which was the direct cause of death.

Waller LJ:
"The difficulty in the present case is that the act of supplying a scheduled drug was not an act which caused direct harm. It was an act which made it possible, or even likely, that harm would occur subsequently, particularly if the drug was supplied to somebody who was on drugs. In all the reported cases, the physical act has been one which inevitably would subject the other person to the risk of some harm from the act itself. In this case, the supply of drugs would itself have caused no harm unless the deceased had subsequently used the drugs in a form and quantity which was dangerous. ... In the judgment of this Court, the unlawful act of supplying drugs was not an act directed against the person of O'Such and the supply did not cause any direct injury to him. The kind of harm envisaged in all the reported cases of involuntary manslaughter was physical injury of some kind as an immediate and inevitable result of the unlawful act, e.g. a blow on the chin which knocks the victim against a wall causing a fractured skull and death, or threatening with a loaded gun which accidentally fires, or dropping a large stone on a train….or threatening another with an open razor and stumbling with death resulting…"
 
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