Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED December 10, 2003

Convictions for murder were safe as the evidence of the pathologist showed a sufficient causal link between the injury sustained by the victim and his eventual death from an infection whilst in a coma.Appeals, with leave of the full court, against convictions for murder imposed on 24 August 2001 at the Central Criminal Court before HH Judge Stephens QC. On 29 January 2000 the defendants attempted to rob a pizza delivery man. During the robbery the victim ('V') was kicked in his head causing a subdural haemotoma, he fell into a coma and was kept on a life support system. Whilst, over a period of months there was a degree of improvement in V's condition, it was unlikely that he would ever make a full recovery. On 14 August 2000 the defendants pleaded guilty to robbery and were subsequently convicted of causing grievous bodily harm. Shortly after, V suffered a serious infection and developed septicaemia, he died on 19 August 2000 and as a result the defendants were charged with his murder. At trial, medical evidence was given from a doctor and pathologist who carried out the post mortem of V. Neither could identify the source of the infection and at the close of the prosecution's case the defendants made a submission of no case to answer on the basis there was insufficient evidence to show that their acts had caused V's death. The judge rejected that submission. The defendants appealed convictions on the ground that the judge was wrong to refuse the submission of no case to answer as the prosecution failed to prove the unlawful acts of the defendants had caused V's death.HELD: There was sufficient evidence to go before the jury. The pathologist acknowledged that whilst he could not be sure of the site of the infection, patients with severe brain injuries requiring long term hospital treatment were at risk from contracting life threatening infections. The pathologist had a clear duty to determine, if he could, the cause of death. His conclusion was that the septicaemia had occurred as a result of a traumatic brain injury caused by the severe head injury. There was therefore clear evidence on which the jury could conclude that causation was made out and the judge was under no obligation to withdraw the matter from the jury.Appeals dismissed.