Which case won?

casea
The case for the prosecution
  • The deceased was still alive when the accused drove him away from the house where they took the drugs.
  • The deceased was still alive when the accused arrived at her home.
  • The accused assumed a duty of care over the deceased by driving him away from the first house, where, according to the prosecution, others present were going to take him to the local hospital.
  • The accused was very much aware of the precarious state the deceased was in when she arrived at her home.
  • The accused failed to get medical attention for the deceased.
  • Telephone records for the accused’s mobile phone on the night in question show that her phone was working and that she did not dial triple-0.
  • The gross criminal negligence by the accused thereby caused or accelerated the death of the deceased and she should be found guilty of manslaughter.
caseb
The case for the accused
  • The prosecution cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt that the deceased was not already dead by the time we left the house.
  • Equally, the prosecution cannot prove that the deceased did not drive the ute himself when the vehicle left the house.
  • In either of those circumstances, there could be no question of any legal liability arising on my part.
  • All of the witnesses were themselves affected by substances and so their testimonies are unreliable.
  • The person whose house we were at on the night in question did not want the ambulance called to the house because of matters related to self-interest.
  • I did make more than one attempt to call triple-0 on my phone, but it malfunctioned and switched itself off.
  • I deny criminal liability for the death of the deceased.

So, which case won?

Cast your judgment below to find out
Case A Case B

Case A won. You were right!

How people voted
a42%
b58%

Expert commentary on the court's decision

“The court found beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was grossly negligent. The court was satisfied to the criminal standard that by leaving the deceased helpless in the driveway of her home and failing to get medical attention, the accused significantly or substantially caused or accelerated his death.”
Essential elements or ingredients of manslaughter by criminal negligence

The accused was charged with the offence that she unlawfully killed a person contrary to section 18(1)(b) of the Crimes Act 1900, which states that every other punishable homicide outside of murder shall be taken to be manslaughter.

The prosecution alleges that the killing of the deceased was caused by an omission of the accused that was so seriously negligent on her part and created such a high risk of serious injury or death to another person, that it amounted to a criminal offence.

In order to prove manslaughter on this basis, the prosecution had prove each of the following elements beyond reasonable doubt.

  • The death of the deceased
  • The accused owed a legal duty of care to the deceased
  • The accused was negligent in that by her omissions, she was in breach of the duty of care which she owed to the deceased
  • The omission by the accused significantly or substantially caused or accelerated the death of the deceased
  • The omission by the accused amounted to gross criminal negligence and merited criminal punishment for the offence of manslaughter, because it fell so far short of the standard of care which a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances; and because it involved such a high risk that death or really serious bodily harm would follow as a result of the omission
Court finds accused guilty of manslaughter

In the case R v Tracey Lee Dowling [2018] NSWDC 367, the court considered the following key points in finding the accused, Tracey Lee Dowling, guilty of the manslaughter of Luke Doyle, the deceased.

The death of the deceased was not disputed and the cause of death was found to be multi-drug toxicity.

Accused found to have owed a duty of care to the deceased

By taking Mr Doyle to her home in Young, NSW, Ms Dowling secluded the deceased from others who were intending to assist him by getting him to the local hospital. By taking him to her home, she effectively prevented any other person from assisting him.

The judge was satisfied that Ms Dowling owed a duty of care to Mr Doyle because she voluntarily assumed care of him at the time she drove him away from the house where he had overdosed and further by taking him to her home, thereby secluding him at a point when he was helpless and it would have been blatantly obvious to anyone that he was in urgent need of medical assistance.

Failure to get medical attention found to be grossly negligent

It was considered relevant that Ms Dowling failed to notify anyone or tell anyone about Mr Doyle overdosing. The judge concluded that Ms Dowling made no effort to contact medical or other assistance, or for that matter anyone.

The court found beyond reasonable doubt that Ms Dowling was grossly negligent. The court was satisfied to the criminal standard that by leaving Mr Doyle helpless in the driveway of her home and failing to get medical attention, Ms Dowling significantly or substantially caused or accelerated his death.

The judge rejected the argument by the defence that it was entirely possible Mr Doyle had died before leaving the house where the drugs were consumed, finding on the basis of evidence provided by pathologists and toxicologists that Mr Doyle was alive when he arrived at the house of Ms Dowling.

Actions of accused found deserving of criminal punishment

The court was satisfied to the criminal standard that Ms Dowling’s omission amounted to gross criminal negligence and merited criminal punishment, because this omission “involved such a great falling short of the standard of care which a reasonable man (read ‘person’) would have exercised and which involved such a high risk that death or grievous bodily harm would follow”.

While the judge found that Ms Dowling was responsible for the death of Mr Doyle, he also took a dim view of other participants in this sad event, including those who encouraged him to abuse prescription medication and those who procured it for him.

In this context, the court noted that an ambulance was not called to the first house because its occupant was concerned about the presence in the house of his young son, the consequent custody implications and the possibility of the intervention of the Department of Family and Community Services.

Ms Dowling was sentenced to seven years in jail for manslaughter, with a non-parole period of five years.

NOTICE: This article is accurate as at the time of publication and does not constitute legal advice. Please see our legal notices page for more information.
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