Causation

Whilst the line between a consequence and an act is usually straightforward, one of the chief issues that arises and complicates the issue is where there is some sort of intervening (or allegedly intervening) event.

Causation is perhaps best described as one of those elements that is extremely simple and straightforward until the very moment that it is not.

Whilst the line between a consequence and an act is usually straightforward, one of the chief issues that arises and complicates the issue is where there is some sort of intervening (or allegedly intervening) event. The best example is perhaps the example that arose in Royall v R [1991] HCA 27, where the victim jumped out of a bathroom window on the sixth floor to escape the assailant. Did the assailant cause her death?

It is good and well to state that the question is whether the accused made a “substantial contribution” to the death of the victim, or whether the accused was the “operating and substantial cause of the death”, but these matters are often so deeply rooted in the peculiar facts of the matter in question that it is difficult to come to grips with the overriding principles.

What is clear is that is necessary to pay careful attention to be precise causal connexion that the prosecution seeks to draw in the particular matter, and on that basis assess whether the element can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

Royall

Royall v R [1991] HCA 27

“where the conduct of the accused induces in the victim a well-founded apprehension of physical harm such as to make it a natural consequence (or reasonable) that the victim would seek to escape and the victim is injured in the course of escaping, the injury is caused by the accused's conduct.”