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Key Case Focus: Gross Negligence Manslaughter – R v Broughton (2020)

Sarah Sharp

8th February 2023

A key case for teaching and studying gross negligence manslaughter: R v Broughton (2020), the facts, outcome and legal impact of the case. Includes; student task and further reading.

This case concerns 24-year-old Louella Fletcher Michie who died at Bestival after taking a class A drug which was supplied by her boyfriend (Rapper, Ceon Broughton). He had filmed her reaction to the drug and had been in contact with her family whilst watching her under the influence of drugs, but did not summon any help and was convicted of her death by way of gross negligence manslaughter by the trial court. It was seen that he owed her a duty of care in the circumstances and failed to obtain medical assistance in a timely manner.

Broughton brought an appeal based on the fact that the jury could not be certain that his negligence was the cause of Louella’s death.

The requirements of gross negligence manslaughter
was set out in a 6 part test in the case:-

1. The defendant must owe a duty of care to the victim.

2. The defendant must breach that duty of care

3. At the time of the breach there must be a serious and obvious risk of death

4. It must be reasonably foreseeable at that time that the breach gives rise to a serious and obvious risk of death

5. The breach must cause or significantly contribute to the death of the victim

6. The jury must consider that the breach justifies criminal sanction

The appeal hung on the issue of causation. The defence stated that the Prosecution must prove that Louella would have lived with timely medical intervention. The Prosecution however stated that this test was too onerous and that the defendant must only have deprived Louella of a significant chance of survival.

The Court of Appeal rejected the Prosecution’s view and found that as expert evidence had been presented stating that if medical intervention had been provided to Louella there would have been a 90% chance of survival. Therefore, this was not proving beyond reasonable doubt that she would have lived if Mr Broughton had called for assistance.

Thus, the appeal was granted as it could not be proven that with intervention Louella would have lived.

Legal impact of this case:

This case demonstrates the high test which is required to show gross negligence manslaughter. If there is uncertainty surrounding causation then this will not be found. Gross negligence has been considered in recent cases such as R v Kuddus (2019) and whilst Broughton (2020) is no departure from the reasoning seen in R v Adomako (1995) it does help to clarify the issue of causation in this area, if there are any uncertainties then this must go in the defendant’s favour.

Student Task 1

To develop understanding of the law in this area research the developments inGross negligence Manslaughter from R v Adomako (1995), R v Kuddus (2019) and R v Broughton (2020).

Student Task 2

Examine the timeline of the Broughton case and assess if at any time you consider there to be a serious and obvious risk of death.

Timeline of event in R v Broughton (2020) case:

  • 16:00: Broughton and Louella go into woods outside Bestival.
  • 17:53: Broughton begins shooting videos including one of 50 minutes duration, showing Louella under the influence of drugs.
  • 18:47: Broughton rings Louella’s parents who hear Louella screaming. Her family set off to Bestival to help her.
  • 19:00: Louella’s brother, texts Broughton stating “Please take Louella to the medical tent.”
  • 19:07: Louella’s brother calls Broughton, who tells him he supplied illegal drugs to her.
  • 19:38: Louella’s father texts Broughton stating “Look after Louella”.
  • 20:07: Broughton replies to Louella’s brothers text calling him a “drama queen”.
  • 20:18: Louella is filmed by Boughton appearing in distress.
  • 9:04pm: A friend texts Broughton stating “medics are coming to Ambient Forest” (however this is not the location Broughton and Louella were at.)
  • 22:56: Broughton texts Louella’s father stating “I am going to make sure she gets the right medical.”
  • 23:06: Louella’s mother texts Broughton stating “We are four minutes away.”
  • 23:23: Broughton takes a photo of Louella who has by this stage died.
Further reading

Further reading - Causing Death by Failing to Seek Medical Help: R v Broughton [2020] EWCA Crim 1093

Case Review Video - Case Review: R v Broughton (2020) David Walbank KC


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Sarah Sharp

Sarah is an experienced A-Level and BTEC Law teacher and examiner. Sarah is Subject Lead for Law at tutor2u, leading the team developing online and print resources for A-Level and BTEC Law courses.

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