Factual causation

Causation can be proved either through factual or legal causation.

With regard to factual causation the prosecution must establish a causal link between the victim and the defendant.  This is a matter of evidence which should be brought out at the trial.  It is a matter for the jury at the end of the day.  It is their decision i.e. whether to convict or acquit.  With this in mind the jury is usually asked to consider two questions.

Did the acts of the accused bring about the resulting harm or, in other words was the defendant responsible for the factual cause of death? The 'but for' test is used to help the courts decide on the matter of factual cause. In effect the courts ask themselves the question 'but for the the conduct of the accused would the harm complained of have occurred?' If the answer is yes then the defendant should properly be considered responsible.


In addition to establishing whether the defendant was responsible for the factual cause of death ('the but for' rule) it must be shown that the defendant's act was a significant cause of the resulting harm. In other words it must be shown that the original injury brought about by the accused was more than a minimal cause of the victim's death. This is known as the de minimis (about minimal things) rule. The defendant's conduct must be more than merely trivial in the context of accelerating the death of the victim.

The law accepts that there needs to be some conduct which leads to a significant contribution otherwise it would not be fair to place responsibility upon the shoulders of the accused. In the case of R v White (1910) this issue was a turning point at the trial. The defendant had intended to kill his mother. He planned to poison her and poisoned her night time drink but she died of a heart attack and not from drinking the poisoned drink. As the defendant had not factually caused her death, he could not be found guilty of her murder but he was held responsible for attempted murder.

Factual causation alone is enough to demonstrate causation if there is nothing to complicate the case however, if there are additional factors which may complicate the case, legal causation will be needed for causation to be established.

Causation # 1 - 'But For' by The Law Bank Youtube

Causation # 2 - Legal Causation by The Law Bank Youtube

Causation # 3 - Intervening Acts by The Law Bank  Youtube

causation in law :: www.forensicmed.co.uk


Related Items

The items below list this as being related in some way.

Amazon's recommended Books

RSS Feeds