Causing controversy: interpreting the requirements of causation in criminal law and tort law
Keywords:causation, tort, negligence, criminal law, harm, wrong, driving, responsibility
The occurrence of a fatal road traffic collision may raise a number of legal issues and result in litigation both in the civil and criminal courts. The role of the different branches of law is distinct, with the aims of the litigation being quite different, but both require causation to be proved. Such cases are examined in this article as a vehicle for discussing how the principles of causation play out in each branch of law. It will be seen that the particular aims of the law dictate how doctrines of causation are applied, with particular problems caused by the legislature’s creation of strict liability offences. To resolve these problems, we propose that the criminal law borrow from negligence in adopting a test akin to the ‘harm within the risk’ test, adapting it to the role of the criminal law by formulating a ‘harm within the wrong’ requirement for causation.