Criminal law

| February 10, 2014

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Aisha and Steve are the parents of a three-year old son, Tom. Steve has been violent towards Aisha throughout their relationship and child protection social workers have become concerned that he may use violence towards Tom. Twice in the past year, Tom’s social worker has noticed bruises on Tom’s arms and head.
One morning, Aisha goes off for a shopping trip and leaves Tom with Steve. In a rush to get downstairs to watch television, Steve forcefully pushes Tom out of his way at the top of the stairs. Tom falls head over heels down the stairs.
Paula, Tom’s social worker, visits the house later that morning. Tom is unable to stand up, has a large red mark on the side of his head, and keeps being sick. Steve tells Paula that Tom "just fell over" and that he "must have some kind of virus." Paula is in a hurry as she is going to meet someone for lunch and does not want to get her new dress covered in vomit. She does not examine Tom closely nor does she ask about the cause of the mark on his head. She leaves.
That night, when Aisha returns, she realises that there is something seriously wrong with Tom. She rushes to hospital with him but Tom dies overnight due to his serious head and other internal injuries. Medical experts agree that the injuries were caused by his fall down the stairs when pushed by Steve and that if he had been admitted to hospital sooner, he would not have died.
Discuss the potential criminal responsibility of i) Steve and ii) Paula for Tom’s death.
Please note: you are NOT expected to discuss the statutory offence of causing or allowing the death of a child under s5 DVCVA 2004
Would it make any difference if Tom only died in hospital a week after his admission, when his injuries had started to heal, because he was given a painkiller which was not recommended for children under six.
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