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LAW 2599 Criminal Law: Case Study of Goodtimes Restaurant

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Justification for Strict Liability Offences

Surprisingly, as noted above, there are a large number of strict liability offences on the statute books. 

Yet, arguably, strict liability offences remove some of the protections for defendants, so why are they so popular? Examine reasons justifying the use of strict liability offences. 


  1. Protection of the Public through Regulation

In the case of Lemon [1979] AC 617, the House of Lords outlined the justification for including strict liability offences:

‘The usual justification for creating by statute a criminal offence of strict liability, in which the prosecution need not prove mens rea as to one of the elements of the actus reus, is the threat that the actus reus of the offence poses to public health, public safety, public morals or public order.’ (Per Lord Diplock)

The types of offences which protect public health and safety often relate to regulation of a particular activity, for example food production, the protection of the environment, and health and safety more generally. The thought is that strict liability in these types of offences acts as a deterrent for non-compliance with the law, which in a profit-making environment deters profit-increasing shortcuts which are detrimental to public safety. The argument is that these are offences which amount to regulation of public safety rather than true criminal offences. In Sherras v De Rutzen [1895] 1 QB 918 the court stated that ‘strict liability offences are not criminal in any real sense but acts which in the public interest are prohibited under a penalty’ (Per Wright J). 

Answer:

Introduction : Case study

Strict liability or the absolute liability is the legal definition of responsibility for damages caused by actions whether by accident or intent. This concept falls under common law jurisdiction and is referred to as tort. The main features of the strict liability reflect negligence in form of duty breach and accidental injury. Strict liability is quite common when dangerous activities are involved. (Kraakman  and Armour  2017)

This assignment will be discussing whether strict liability laws are out of date or not with respect to the case study of Goodtimes restaurant.  The case study of the restaurant has showcased the background to its closure. Three diners Lisa, Peter and Stephen came to the restaurant where they saw another diner Emma. Lisa went to accost Emma, accusing her of destroying Stephen’s life. Lisa targeted Emma but accidently hit a diner Jack, who eventually dies later from head injuries. A waiter Billy, on intervening, pushed Lisa away from Emma, causing her some bruises.

Soon, the restaurant got shut down. There were allegations that health and safety regulations were not followed. It was found that the Food Standards Agency is prosecuting the restaurant after some diners fell ill from food poisoning at the restaurant. Now the question is should the restaurant be liable for the attempted murder on its premises or the food issues.

Liability : Discussion

A strict liability offence refers to the wrongdoing for which a person is generally found liable. A number of laws and legislations have been put into force in relation to the strict liability issues. (Du Plessis, et al  2018) nThe regulations and legalities, firstly, aim to protect the public, the public property and the members of the public. When strict liability offences are committed, mot of the time the public does not come under protection. There are three major types of liability offences. First is the minor offences, such as traffic and road incidents. Second is the difficult-to-prove incidents where situation is ambiguous and difficult to understand, such as offences committed by companies. Third is serious offences like bodily harm and assault. The main suggestion is that where liability is strict , there is deterrent value of offences. (Foreman-Peck, and Hannah, 2015)

There are challenges as well in association with strict liability offence laws. Firstly, wrongful convictions are big risks. Secondly, convictions at times is too easily obtained without thorough investigation and enquiry. Besides legal perspectives, strict liability laws have both advantages and disadvantages for other sectors. For companies, while strict liability keeps the company’s resources and operations in regular check, in cases legal hurdles arise, leading to unforeseen circumstances. For consumers, strict liability helps in getting protection and compensation, but often consumers cannot sue for liability because all situations are not necessarily covered by the liability laws. (Cronin  2018)

Apart from strict liability, the concept of absolute liability needs to be understood, in order to determine whether circumstances are covered by absolute liability laws. Absolute liability refers to the fixed nature of the liability where situations show obvious causes and effects.  Situations like fatalities that are undoubtedly caused by factors need legal solutions.

From the perspective of the case study, it can be observed that liability laws need to be changed and updated. (Lederman  2016) It is not very clear whether the restaurant was shut down because of assault taking place on its premises or because of the food safety standards being compromised. It is unfair to blame the restaurant for the incident that took place. However, the food safety should be a liability offence because of the negative consequences faced by the diners.

The UK government has recently started making decisions to update the outdates reforms of liability laws. The basic identification principle has been recognised as the cause in errors in prosecution and convictions. There is no clarity as to who is exactly liable for a an action. Employees of companies get blamed for companies’ actions and vice versa, which often turn out to be wrong. The government is proposing to make changes in corporate laws so that clarity is present in legal situations. It is important to differentiate between the real culprits and those who unknowingly commit offences. Investigation and enquiries should be also clear and prompt and thorough. (Kraakman, and Hansmann s 2017.)

Conclusion

 Liability offences in the two scenarios of the case study are obvious. (Lowry,. and Dignam, 2016) In the first scenario, the restaurant and its management and staff have no strict liability. The employee  Bill did what a good citizen would do, that is protecting one diner from another. In the second scenario. If the liability offence of the restaurant is found valid and credible, its shutting down is justified, depending on the circumstances around the food security measures.

References

Cronin, A., 2018. Corporate Criminality and Liability for Fraud. Routledge.

Du Plessis, J.J., Hargovan, A. and Harris, J., 2018. Principles of contemporary corporate governance. Cambridge University Press.

Foreman-Peck, J. and Hannah, L., 2015. UK corporate law and corporate governance before 1914: a re-interpretation.

Kraakman, R. and Armour, J., 2017. The anatomy of corporate law: A comparative and functional approach. Oxford University Press.

Kraakman, R. and Hansmann, H., 2017. The end of history for corporate law. In Corporate Governance (pp. 49-78). Gower.

Lederman, E., 2016. Corporate Criminal Liability: The Second Generation. Stetson L. Rev., 46, p.71.

Lowry, J.P. and Dignam, A., 2016. Company Law (pp. 1-491). Oxford University Press.

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