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A-G ref no 2 of 1999 [2000] 2 Cr App R 207 Court of Appeal

This case arose from the Southall train crash in which 7 people died. The driver was an experienced driver, but no second competent person was with him. Two safety devices were fitted to prevent the train passing a signal, however, both were turned off. The driver failed to notice two yellow signals and consequently was travelling too fast to be able to stop in time at the red signal. The train driver and the train company were prosecuted on 7 counts of manslaughter. The trial judge, Scott Baker J, ruled that it was a condition precedent to a conviction for gross negligence manslaughter, for a guilty mind to be proved. Also where the defendant was a company, the company could only be convicted via the guilt of a human being. The Attorney General referred the following questions to the Court of Appeal:

1. can a defendant be properly convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence in the absence of evidence as to that defendant's state of mind?


2. can a non-human defendant be convicted of the crime of manslaughter by gross negligence in the absence of evidence establishing the guilt of an identified human individual for the same crime?


Held:

On question 1 - yes a defendant can be properly convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence in the absence of evidence as the defendant's state of mind. The Adomako test is objective, but a defendant who is reckless may well be the more readily found to be grossly negligent to a criminal degree.

Lord Justice Rose:

"On this question, we accept the submissions of both Mr Lissack and Mr Caplan. They lead to the conclusion that question 1 must be answered "Yes". Although there may be cases where the defendant's state of mind is relevant to the jury's consideration when assessing the grossness and criminality of his conduct, evidence of his state of mind is not a pre-requisite to a conviction for manslaughter by gross negligence."



Question 2

No
Back to lecture outline on gross negligence manslaughter in criminal law