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15. Attorney-General’s Ref No. 3 of 1994 (1997) July 25, 1997

This case decided the law in a situation where a man stabs a pregnant woman and inflicts a wound that eventually kills the baby she is carrying. It rules on the important issue of which forms of life are protected by the criminal law. On May 26, 1990, a man stabbed his girlfriend in the face, abdomen and back. At the time she was, to his knowledge, 22 to 24 weeks pregnant with his child. Seventeen days later the child was born – it survived for 120 days before dying from the effects of premature birth. The mother recovered and the assailant was convicted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and sentenced to four years imprisonment. Although the man was charged with murder after the death of the child, the judge ruled that neither murder nor manslaughter was proved on the available evidence and directed the jury to acquit on the murder charge. The Attorney-General referred the matter to the Court of Appeal on points of law including whether the crimes of murder or manslaughter can be committed where unlawful injury is deliberately inflicted to a child in utero (in the womb). The House of Lords decided that it was enough to raise a prima facie case of murder if the defendant committed the act that caused the death of the victim (the foetus) or caused grievous bodily harm. So an assailant such as the one who escaped a homicide conviction in this case could now be convicted.

16. Gregory V Portsmouth City Council February 2, 2000

The civil action for malicious prosecution is a useful defence for a citizen against oppressive behaviour by a prosecutor. It is available where a prosecution has been brought maliciously, without reasonable and probable cause and has been unsuccessful. It helps balance the relationship between the individual and the state. This case made an important decision about the limits of that civil action. Terence Gregory, a councillor, had allegedly misused his position for financial gain and had been subject to disciplinary proceedings by a city council. Those proceedings, however, were quashed by the Divisional Court following a judicial review. The councillor then sued the council for having ‘maliciously prosecuted’ him by taking disciplinary proceedings against him. But the House of Lords decided that an action for malicious prosecution will not be open to someone who has been merely the subject of disciplinary proceedings.

17. Chief Adjudication Officer V Faulds May 16, 2000

This case concerned the important issue of when incidents can be properly described as accidents. It is a fine illustration of how what might seem like remote philosophical semantics are an important and unavoidable part of law and have a striking impact on real life. Thomas Faulds, a senior fire officer, was claiming industrial injury benefit as a consequence of post-traumatic stress disorder. Faulds, who had served for 27 years, argued that he was entitled to benefit within the provisions of section 94(1) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, as he had suffered personal injury (stress) by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment. He had attended many appalling fatal accidents and had been required to photograph mutilated bodies. But the law lords rejected Faulds’ claim that he had suffered from an “accident” in the way meant by the legislation. He wasn’t present when accidents actually occurred and it was not, at least directly, the actual happening of a crash or a fire or a vehicle collision that caused him any injury. The mere fact of suffering stress or developing some illness or disorder from being engaged in a stressful occupation wouldn’t bring the sufferer within the purview of the Act for the purposes of injury benefit.

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