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Critically consider the advantages and disadvantages of

criminalising omissions. Do you consider the current law
adequate?
The common law traditionally prohibits acts and does not
criminalize omissions. Therefore, no liability will arise in relation
to a failure to act as this would restrict individual autonomy.
This means that a person can only usually be held criminally
liable where he has performed a positive act. However, there
are six exceptions where the law imposes a duty to act upon a
person and failure to so act can lead to criminal liability.
Firstly, there is an exception which applies where there is
special relationship between parties. There are two types of
relation among the people on is by blood and the other is by
subsequent relations. Usually parents are duty bound to take
care of their children, this duty is both imposed by law and by
morality on them, and therefore they are under a duty to
protect their children from any kind of physical harm. In the
famous case of Gibbons and Proctor, both man and the woman
were charged guilty due to starving the child to death by
stopping to provide it food, the man was charged because he
was under a duty to take care of his child while the wife who
took money from the father of the child automatically owes a
duty towards the child to look after it. These special
relationships will impose a duty upon the defendant to act.
Regardless, there is still uncertainty over the extent to which
this category compromises such as relationships between
siblings and spouses.
Next, voluntarily assuming responsibility for someone is
another exception to the general rule. When a defendant
voluntarily assumes responsibility for someone, the law
imposes a duty upon them to continue to do so. If a couple
takes a duty of care for a child to look after him and they are
being paid for it that is called contractual duty. Based on this,
any failure to act in accordance to the terms of the contract
may result in criminal liability as shown in R v Pittwood. On the
other hand, where a couple assume a duty of care towards their
vulnerable relative they assume a duty of voluntary
responsibility to look after him and take care of him, failing to
do so they may be charged for criminal offence. This rule was

In R v Miller. A statutory provision may also impose a duty on a person to act. Without putting out the fire. the defendant had fell asleep while smoking a cigarette and woke to find the mattress on fire. There is also a duty on a defendant to act in order to avert a danger which he has created. a person in public office. Citizens should not be encouraged to interfere in the lives of strangers. When the defendant noticed the fire. such as a police officer. he was under a duty to take steps to avert the danger and thus he was convicted due to his failure to so act. Imposing a duty on individuals to act to help another in peril would also increase the possibility of mass liability and would be impractical. Professor Williams advocates the conventional view whereas Professor Ashworth prefers the social responsibility view. the law aims to maximize each individual’s autonomy and liberty. Similarly. The defendant was then convicted of arson.followed in the case of Stone v Dobinson where the defendant was liable for a criminal gross negligence for not taking care of their infirm relative. The conventional view is that no person should be compelled to serve another and Professor Williams argues that there is a clear moral distinction between an act and an omission whereby he states that we have ‘stronger inhibitions against active wrongdoing than against wrongfully omitting. will have a duty to act in accordance with their position. nor should they be forced to help strangers as imposing such duties upon citizens would be too onerous. With these exceptions laid. there are two academic arguments relating to whether or not criminal liability should be imposed for an omission to act.’ According to this view. In a situation where a swimmer is drowning in the sea. who does the law compel to help the swimmer? Should everybody be liable for not assisting? The conventional view holds that the criminal law should only impose liability for omissions in ‘clear and serious cases’ and . he had gone to another room and fell asleep again.

In contrast. . In the complicated cases of omission. The parameters of the duties should be much clearer. It can only be made possible making clear and bold laws where failing to act should be punished. However. This approach relies on the argument that all of society will benefit from a duty to be helped when in extreme peril.should be confined to situations where the defendant has assumed responsibility or where there is a special relationship. it should be the court who decides the duties or negligence. it safeguards liability by insisting that the peril far outweighs cost or inconvenience to the person required to assist. so the criteria of punishing the people for not doing should be handled carefully. In conclusion. the social responsibility view is that one should be under a legal duty to assist another because society recognizes that we have a duty to support and help each another. it has been proved by the cases and recent verdicts of the courts that omission in some circumstance can lead to some serious crimes. like murder and manslaughter. In each and every case the punishment for the omission should be dealt with outmost care. In the cases relating to close relation there should be a line drawn between who owes duties towards whom? It would be very much difficult to punish all the by standers who watched a child drowning. There are cases where we can say that omission gives birth to gross negligence and it needs to be brought in a circle of statue and there should be some proper laws and statue to tackle with this type of omission. Professor Ashworth argues that liability should be limited to those who had particular opportunity to assist.