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Legal Scenario Analysis: Liability for Assault, Murder, and the Application of Duress in Law

Sarah's Liability for Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm

Read the scenario and then answer the questions below. Scenario You are a solicitor for AKUILA LLP.

You have had a busy day and have three new clients to meet. Your first client of the day is Sarah, she tells that you she was recently diagnosed a diabetic.

She tells you that she was in a hurry to get to work and accidentally gave herself an insufficient dose of insulin and did not eat enough at breakfast. At work, Sarah became confused and dizzy. She violently hit a colleague in the face causing a bloodied nose and a black eye. She has no recollection of the incident. Later that day, you meet your second client, Jake. Jake tells you that he is a diagnosed schizophrenic.

He heard voices in his head telling him to kill his tutor because the tutor was a supremely evil deity. Jake stabbed his to tutor to death. Jake admits he intended to kill his tutor and figured that he would be imprisoned for it. However, Jake is adamant that he had no choice but to rid the world of the evil. You meet the final client for the day, Duke, aged 15 years. Duke tells you that he has a sister calledMelene. She is 21 years old and a recovering drug addict.

Melene is the mother of a six-month-old baby. Duke is a member of a drug gang. Several months ago, Melene moved in with Ray, the drug gang’s self-appointed leader. Ray has several previous convictions for possession of drugs and offences against the person. Ray has a reputation for violence. Melene is regularly assaulted by Ray but is frightened to leave him. Several days ago, Ray tells Melene to collect a parcel for him from a man in the town.

At first, Melene refuses but Ray threatens to harm her baby if she does not go and collect the package. Melene collects the package and brings it back to the flat. When Ray opens the package, Melene sees it contains a powerful handgun.

Melene begs Ray to get rid of it but he warns her to keep it safe and hidden as he has to go out of town for a couple of days and that if she does not, he will ‘land her in hospital and her kid in care’. Melene does as she is told. It transpires that the gun was used in the fatal shooting of a rival gang member. Duke is charged with the murder of the rival gang member as he pulled the trigger. Duke’s defence at trial is that he was forced to do so as to avoid harm to his sister.


With reference to the scenario explain whether Sarah would be liable for the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

In doing so explain

a) The of actus reus and mens rea of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

b) Whether there are any defences available to Sarah. In your answer you should consider whether there are any defences which specifically relate to diabetes.

Provide reasons for your answers and support your answers with relevant legislation and case law.

Write a letter discussing Jake’s liability for the murder of his tutor. The letter should be written in a professional manner and should address the following: a) The actus reus and men's rea of the offence and whether Jake meets those elements.

Provide reasons for your answers and support your answers with relevant legislation and case law.

Kenneth Anderson describes disallowing duress as a defence to murder as a paradox (Anderson K, ‘The Paradox of Disallowing Duress as a Defence to Murder’ (2014) Vol 78 no 1 Journal of Criminal Law, 65) Looking at the issues raised in the cases of Melene and Duke in the scenario above, discuss and evaluate how the law on duress applies and whether it should be reformed.

Provide reasons for your answers and support your answers with relevant legislation and case law.

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