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R v Dias [2002] 2 Cr App R 5 Court of Appeal

The appellant and Edward Escott were both vagrants and drug addicts. They pooled their money and brought £10 worth of heroin. The appellant prepared the solution of heroin and handed a loaded syringe to the Escott who injected himself. Escott died. The trial judge ruled that following the decision in R v Kennedy [1999] Crim LR 65, the self-injection by Escott of the heroin was itself an unlawful act. It followed that aiding and abetting such an offence would make the appellant criminally liable as a secondary party for that unlawful act which in turn had caused the death of Escott. The jury convicted him of manslaughter. The appellant appealed. The trial judge certified a point of law asking if he was correct to rule that self-injection of heroin was an offence.

Held:

Appeal allowed. The appellant's conviction for manslaughter was quashed. The Court of Appeal decision in R v Kennedy 1999 was wrong to state that self injection of heroin was an unlawful act. Whilst possession of the heroin was an unlawful act there was no direct causation. The jury had not been directed on the issue of causation therefore the conviction was unsafe. In any event it is likely in most cases that the freely informed decision, by an adult of sound mind to self-inject drugs, would amount to a novus actus interveniens breaking the chain of causation.
 
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