Essay On Omission

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A person is said to be criminally liable if he commits an act which the law renders illegal. Under English criminal law a person is generally not liable for an omission. The crime must be capable of being committed by omission. For example if A was drowning and B sees A drowning, there is no responsibility on B’s part to help A. Even if A ends up dying B is not liable for A’s death. He may only merely have a moral obligation to help but he cannot be charged with murder or battery. Basically, B cannot be prosecuted for his failure to act. Although this is the general principle, it is subject to exceptions. Where a person is under a duty to act and he fails to do so he is deemed to be criminally liable for the omission. The most important…show more content…
The most important justification for not imposing liability for an omission is that it will restrict individual freedom. People should be at liberty to choose how they want to live. Punishing omissions is therefore a far greater infringement on personal liberty than punishing acts. There is no general duty to act because the law respects personal autonomy. Glanville Williams stated that omission liability should be exceptional and needs to be adequately justified in each instance and when it is imposed it should be in clear statutory…show more content…
Besides in crimes like gross negligence manslaughter mens rea can be established. Those who support liability for omissions refer to Hart and Honere’s approach to causation which relies on what is “normal” and “abnormal” events. This might help to distinguish cases of failure to rescue which are normal and abnormal. The problem here though is the ambiguous concept of “normal”. Even if it is accepted that omissions cannot cause a result it must be noted that there are many instances like possession and endangerment cases such as dangerous driving which do not rely on the causation
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