UK Criminal Law and the Modern Vampire

By Jen, a.k.a. Ghost

Author’s Note: As a student of Law in England I can verify that the information which follows is correct. Where possible, I have included cases and statutes which back-up the information I’ve supplied. Legal references are underlined. The story behind each case doesn’t really matter, only the legal principle it enforces. These laws apply to possible situations a vampire may find themselves in, e.g. worst case scenario, criminal liability of a vampire to a donor. Ignorance is no excuse where English Law is concerned, as Recklessness (discussed below) proves. Also, it’s probably best not to mention the word vampire in a defense, as you’ll be seen as a lunatic. Although that could lessen your sentence if your offense is minor, e.g. you could get away with a Mental Health Treatment Order and Conditional Discharge.

English Law relies on two elements: the Actus Reus (AR) and Mens Rea (MR). These are the physical and mental elements of a crime, respectively. Both are required for most crimes in Law, and all the crimes I mention here.

In England, one can only sue in Civil Law, e.g. for negligence. In Criminal Law, where there is a victim (V) and defendant (D) the State (R for Regina, which is the Latin name for the Queen) would prosecute as the State has been disobeyed by the D.

All actions in English Law must be voluntary. The case Hill v. Baxter verifies this, as Baxter acted involuntarily so wasn’t found liable for his actions.

Omissions ~ a failure to act. Duty of care ~ a responsibility of one person to care for another.
Of the 5 exceptions where one can be found liable of an offense despite omitting to act, the only ones likely to apply to the modern vampire are:

  • when one has a duty of care to the victim by a legal relationship, e.g. the daughter in the case R v. Gibbins & Proctor, (friends can count as a legal relationship by Common Law);
  • when one has voluntarily taken on a duty of care, e.g. the brother voluntarily caring for his sister in R v. Stone & Dobinson;
  • or when one has set a chain of events into motion, e.g. in R v. Miller.

Causation, although technically part of the AR, is the link between the defendant’s (D’s) act and the victim’s (V’s) injuries. This is often referred to as the chain of causation. When the chain is broken, the original D is not liable for the resultant injury. If causation is found in a criminal law case, the AR of that crime is found too.

Causation in Fact: The ‘But For’ test, used in the case of R v. Pagett. This is assessed with the question “Would the V have sustained their injuries but for the actions of the D?”

Causation in Law: The Thin Skull Rule from the case R v. Blaue. This states that one must “take their victim as they find them”. For example, if you cut someone whose blood cannot clot, whether you knew it couldn’t clot or not, you would still be liable in English Law for causing their hospitalisation and the injury sustained.

Minimum Contribution Rule. This applies to a third party, if one was involved. For their liability here, their involvement must have been “more than minimal but not substantial”. If it was substantial, they would break the chain of causation from the original D, which brings me onto the next and final type of Causation in Criminal Law.

Novus Actus Interveniens or a “new, intervening act”. Where this applies, the chain of causation is broken between the original D and the V. This can be done by one of 3 ways:

  • the V’s own act, e.g. if they had a substantial part in the accumulation of their injuries as in R v. Williams. To not break the chain of causation, the victim must have acted foreseeably and in proportion to the perceived threat;
  • the act of a 3rd party, which must be substantial to break the chain from the original D, e.g. incorrectly administered medication as in R v. Jordan;
  • a natural but unpredictable event, usually called an Act of God, e.g. freak weather conditions causing a car crash would come under this category. If an ambulance crashed in this way, any injuries sustained could not be blamed on the original D, but the injuries sustained before the break in the chain would still apply as liability on the part of the original D.

Mens Rea, the mental element of a crime, has 3 parts: Intention, Gross Negligence and Recklessness. Only 2 need to be observed here.

Intention can be Direct or Oblique. Direct Intention is assessed as to whether the consequence of the D’s action was their aim, from the case R v. Mohan. Oblique Intention is assessed with the following 2 questions, which need to both be answered yes for Oblique Intention to be found;

  1. Were the consequences of the D’s actions a virtual certainty?
  2. Did the D realize this?

The above test was from the landmark case R v. Woollin. Those questions form what is known as the Woollin Test.

Recklessness as stated here is Subjective. Subjective (or Cunningham) Recklessness as it is known, is assessed with one question: Was the D taking an unjustifiable risk? If the answer is yes, then Recklessness is proven. This is taken from the case of R v. Cunningham, hence the earlier reference in the name.

For English Law, only one of these types of MR need to be found to constitute the MR of that offense. This applies, too, to Causation, where only one type needs to be found for a link to exist.

The MR and AR of an offense must be present at the same time as ruled in Fagan v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner. So if you intend to harm, say, your neighbor, but then do not and later accidentally knock them over with your car, you are not liable for purposefully hitting them as the AR and MR did not coincide. The coincidence of AR and MR is pivotal to all offenses here.

A brief note on something called Transfer of Malice. If you harm a person unintentionally whilst meaning to harm someone else, as ruled in R v. Latimer, you are still liable for the harm caused. This is because malice can be transferred between people.

Non-Fatal Offences Against The Person

This is the main reason for this brief article. Everything I have already explained should make sense after this. Offenses Against the Person (OAP for short) are anything short of death.

Sentences for OAP listed in order of least severe to most:

  • Assault ~ up to 6 months.
  • Battery ~ up to 6 months.
  • Assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)~ up to 2 years, in practice although up to 5 years is a possibility.
  • Malicious Wounding (MW)~ up to 5 years.
  • Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) with Intent ~ up to life imprisonment.

All the above can be committed recklessly or intentionally (see the explanation of MR above) with the exception of GBH with intent which can only be committed intentionally (quite obviously). GBH with Intent is called a Specific Intent Crime for this reason. So when I state definitions, they are only the AR for that offense as the MR has been explained. Both need to be proven for a D to be found guilty.

A D has a Burden of Proof of 99% in criminal law, which means that a jury or judge must believe that the D is guilty for that percentage, which amounts to ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

Assault and Battery are both Common Law offenses, as they have never been defined in a statute (act of Parliament), but they are chargeable under one.

Assault: chargeable under section 39 (s.39) of the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) 1988

AR of Assault: ‘to cause another to fear immediate, unlawful, personal violence’.

Battery: chargeable under s.39 of the CJA 1988

AR of Battery: ‘to apply unlawful force to another’. This means touching a person (even a handshake) without their consent, which can be express, e.g. being given express permission or implied consent, e.g. by the relationship of being friends or relatives. This is where there is trivial or minor harm done. It can range from the slightest touching of another person without consent to minor bruising.

ABH: chargeable under s.47 of the Offenses Against the Person Act (OAPA) 1861.

AR of ABH: ‘to cause any hurt or injury calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim’. The case R v. Chan Fook defines ABH. Actual: more than trivial, less than serious. Bodily: all parts of the body including the organs, nervous system and the brain. Harm: injury. It doesn’t include ‘mere’ emotions, e.g. fear, distress, panic.

What can amount to ABH: more than minor bruising, broken bones, e.g. finger, scratches with a sharp object or needle (but no break of the whole skin, only the dermis or cappilaries), a loss of consciousness (even momentarily, as ruled in T v. DPP [2003]), psychiatric injuries (the causing of a recognised medical condition), or minor cuts and bleeding as in the case of R v. Savage [1991].

MW: chargeable under s.20 of the OAPA 1861.

Definition of MW: ‘the unlawful and malicious wounding or inflicting of GBH with or without a weapon’. A weapon as meant here can be any instrument that can be used to cause harm, even a rolled-up newspaper or use of one’s teeth (there are obvious connotations to vampires here). MW does not include internal bleeding, which is far more serious. A wound is a cut or break in the whole of the skin (dermis and epidermis) as ruled in JCC v. Eisenhower so where the victim bleeds (even pricking someone’s finger with a pin) or is even grazed, there is at least Malicious Wounding. MW also includes serious psychiatric injury (evidence necessary), severe bruising to a young child or elderly person as in R v. Bollom, passing on a life-threatening disease to another as in R v. Dica, serious broken bones or fractures and paralysis. Maliciously ~ intentionally or subjective recklessly.

GBH with Intent: chargeable under s.18 of the OAPA 1861.

Definition of GBH with Intent: ‘the unlawful and malicious (by any means whatsoever) wounding or causing of GBH with intent to any person’. As ruled in DPP v. Smith, GBH means ‘really serious harm’. There is little difference between MW and GBH with Intent except the Mens Rea. Maliciously ~ intentionally or subjective recklessly.


There is no law, Common Law or defined by statute, in the UK which expressly prohibits blood-letting. However, in view of the above information, it could be argued that even with consent, blood-letting of a donor by a vampire or anyone, for that matter, could amount to an offence, should a donor choose to press charges afterward (for whatever reason, including being lured under false pretence to give consent). However, as consensual (or any) blood-letting is not expressly addressed in UK Law (I wonder why?), and anything not addressed by the government is viewed as legal, there should be no problem, legally speaking, when blood-letting is done in a safe, secure environment by responsible people.

Jen contributed the articles “UK Criminal Law and the Modern Vampire” and “Bipolar Disorder or Awakening?”

Sanguinarius E. Sanguinarius – who has written posts on for Real Vampires.

About Sanguinarius E. Sanguinarius

I’m the founder/creator/page slave of I’m in my early-to-mid 40s. I have 2 special kitties and a good man. More info later. See my website, Sangi’s Corner, for more about me.
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