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R v Dawson – 1985

Law Case Summary

R v Dawson (1985) 81 Cr App R 150

Unlawful Act Manslaughter – Dangerousness – Egg-Shell Skull Rule – Causation


The individual on trial approached a gas station where a 50-year-old man was working and attempted to rob the station with a fake gun and a pick-axe handle. They demanded money, but did not physically harm the attendant who pressed the alarm and the defendants fled without taking any cash. However, the gas station worker, who the defendants were unaware had a pre-existing heart condition, suffered a heart attack and passed away. The defendant was convicted of unlawful act manslaughter and appealed the decision.


The main issues in the appeal were whether the defendant’s actions were foreseeably dangerous and if they realized that their actions would likely cause physical harm. Additionally, it was questioned if the defendants needed knowledge of the victim’s medical condition to realize their actions were dangerous.


The appeal was successful and it was determined that the trial judge had incorrectly instructed the jury. The jury should have been asked if a reasonable person would have recognized that their actions could have resulted in physical injury. The unlawful act must also be considered dangerous and it must be determined if the defendants could have reasonably foreseen that their actions would be dangerous. If the defendants had knowledge of the victim’s heart condition, they may have been aware that their actions could have caused harm. However, as they were not aware, a reasonable person would not have deemed their actions as dangerous.

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Answering problem questions in the University of London LLB programme requires a clear understanding of legal principles, good analytical skills and the ability to apply the law to a given set of facts. Here are some tips to help you answer problem questions effectively:

  1. Read the question carefully: Make sure you understand what the question is asking before you begin writing.
  2. Identify the legal issues: Identify the legal issues raised by the facts and the relevant laws that apply to those issues.
  3. Analyze the facts: Analyze the facts presented in the question, focusing on the details that are relevant to the legal issues.
  4. Apply the law: Apply the relevant laws to the facts, making sure to consider all relevant legal principles and cases.
  5. Structure your answer: Use a clear and well-structured approach, starting with an introduction that outlines the main legal issues, followed by a discussion of the relevant laws and a conclusion that summarizes your analysis and sets out your conclusion.
  6. Use relevant cases and statutes: Cite relevant cases and statutes to support your analysis and help illustrate the legal principles you are discussing.
  7. Be concise: Be concise and to the point, focusing on the key issues and avoiding unnecessary detail.
  8. Proofread: Proofread your answer carefully to make sure it is error-free and clear.
  9. Time management: Make sure you manage your time effectively, leaving enough time to review your answer and make any necessary corrections.

By following these tips, you should be able to answer problem questions in the University of London LLB programme effectively and with confidence. Good luck!

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