Stone and Dobinson

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Citation: Stone and Dobinson [1977] 1 QB 354.

This information can be found in the Textbook: Brown et al, Criminal Laws: Materials and Commentary on Criminal Law and Process in New South Wales, (5th edition, Federation Press, 2011), pp. 480-1.


Background facts

  • Stone was partially deaf, basically blind and pretty disabled in other senses. Dobinson lived with Stone, and was described as ineffectual and inadequate.
  • Stone's eccentric sister came to live with them.
  • The sister became ill. Both Stone and Dobinson were advised to get her help. Dobinson failed because he didn't know how to use a phone and Stone failed because he walked to the wrong place.
  • Eventually the sister died and the two were charged with manslaughter.

Legal issues


  • The following three requirements must be satisfied for manslaughter by omission:
    1. That there was a duty of care owed by the defendant to the deceased.
    2. That the defendant had been grossly negligent in fulfilling that duty of care.
    3. That the deceased died by reason of this negligence.
  • In this case, the requirements were satisfied.
    1. The defendants indeed assumed the duty of care because the sister (who was also sort of incapable of caring for herself) was living with them and they often brought food for her.
    2. The defendants' attempts at procuring help were very limited.
    3. The death was definitely caused because of the inability of the defendants to find help.
  • The defendants were convicted.


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