DPP v Newbury and Jones [1977]

DPP v Newbury and Jones [1977]

In DPP v Newbury and Jones [1977] AC 500, [1977] Crim LR 359, the House of Lords considered the application of the objective test in constructive manslaughter cases, specifically whether the unlawful act would likely cause harm.

The facts involved two 15-year-old defendants who pushed a paving stone from a bridge, which resulted in the death of a railway guard. The defendants were convicted of constructive manslaughter, but they appealed on the grounds that they did not foresee the danger of their actions.

The House of Lords dismissed the appeal, emphasising that in constructive manslaughter, the test for whether the unlawful act is likely to cause harm is objective. Lord Salmon, delivering the judgment, stated:

"The test is still the objective test. In judging whether the act was dangerous, the test is not did the accused recognise that it was dangerous but would all sober and reasonable people recognise its danger."

This ruling clarified that in cases of constructive manslaughter, it is not necessary to prove the defendant's subjective foresight of the danger. The focus is on whether a sober and reasonable person would recognise the danger inherent in the unlawful act.

It is noteworthy that in a later case, R v Goodfellow [1986], the court suggested that the unlawful act in DPP v Newbury and Jones could be considered reckless criminal damage, implying that the defendants did have the mens rea for an unlawful act even if they did not foresee harm to another. This illustrates the flexibility in interpreting the nature of the unlawful act in constructive manslaughter cases.
Back to blog
UOL Case Bank

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
INSEAD
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law

    Terminology

    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory

    Exam-focused

    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.