R v Stone and Dobinson  1 QB 354 is a well-known case in English criminal law. The case involved the prosecution of a couple, Stone and Dobinson, for the manslaughter of Stone's sister, Fanny.
Fanny had come to live with the couple in a house in East London. Fanny was in poor health and had a history of mental illness. She was unable to care for herself and was reliant on her sister and brother-in-law for support.
However, Stone and Dobinson were unable to provide the necessary care for Fanny. They neglected her, leaving her in a dirty and squalid room with no adequate food, water, or hygiene facilities. Fanny's health deteriorated rapidly, and she eventually died from malnutrition and related health issues. The prosecution argued that Stone and Dobinson had a duty of care towards Fanny and that they had breached that duty by failing to provide her with the necessary care.
The defence argued that the defendants were not capable of providing the necessary care, as they themselves were in poor health and had limited resources. Dobinson was described as ineffectual and inadequate. Stone was totally blind, partially deaf, had no appreciable sense of smell, and was of low intelligence. Nevertheless, the jury found the defendants guilty of manslaughter, and they were sentenced to three years' probation.
The case is significant in English law as it established the principle that a duty of care can arise in cases of voluntary assumption of care, even where there is no pre-existing relationship of care between the parties. It also highlighted the importance of the duty of care owed by family members towards vulnerable relatives.
You can learn more about this topic and other case law with our Criminal Law notes.