Backdoor Law…?

We’ve never had a ‘Good Samaritan’ Law here in England, unlike on the continent. But a little-noticed case last year may have now ushered that in.

Initially treated as a murder, the charge was reduced to manslaughter:

Michael Bowditch, of Prestedge Avenue, Ramsgate, denied murdering Becky Morgan, 17, during a previous court appearance.

But he changed his plea to guilty to manslaughter before his trial was due to start at Maidstone Crown Court today.

Now, there is no question here that he wasn’t being charged due to his actions, but due to his inaction:

In the early hours of May 1 they were at the harbour arm in Ramsgate.

At some stage the teenager went into the sea and drowned. Her body was recovered two-and-a-half miles away at 7.47am.

Bowditch entered a plea to manslaughter on the basis he could not say how Becky came to fall in the sea, but failed to take any action to help her.

This is made explicit by the prosecution:

“It is the failure to take any steps to prevent Miss Morgan’s death after she fell into the sea which forms the basis of his culpability for manslaughter,” said Mr Taylor.

Now, there’s no doubt that he’s a deeply unpleasant human being, but the outpouring of scorn seems to have obscured the fact that this verdict would appear to set a rather dangerous precedent.

Or am I being alarmist?

7 comments for “Backdoor Law…?

  1. Richard
    January 28, 2017 at 11:30 am

    He admitted manslaughter and the plea was accepted. However IF he had stood trial he may have been aquitted because the girl at 17 was legally a child but was out in the early hours in a dangerous place with an intoxicated man. Which of her separated parents failed in their duty of care? That’s the first point.
    The other thing is that the man was probably incapable of rational thought due to substance abuse.
    Lastly, if the girl entered the sea by accident or on purpose due to similar substance abuse then – again – there is a failure of care by her guardian(s).
    The man, I believe from the reports, pled guilty due to remorse that she’d drowned but he was a last disastrous link of a chain of consequences which did not start with him.

    • January 29, 2017 at 7:20 am

      I guess he’s lucky he didn’t have sex with her that she later recollected as rape. He might have got even longer!

  2. mikef
    January 28, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    That was my reaction. Of course, one really needs to know all the ins and outs of the case, but as I recall: One must not kill, but need not strive, officiously to keep alive.

  3. Bemused
    January 28, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    I seem to remember a few police incidents where victims were allowed to die because the police officers were not trained to save them. Why were they not arrested for manslaughter?

  4. Errol
    January 28, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    I dislike the idea that an insensible stranger can be held responsible for the death of another. Did he push her in? Did he intend to cause her harm, or was he just so off his head he couldn’t think straight?

    I suspect the latter. It sugests we have a legal system based on intent, not evidence. In that case, I’m guilty of massive, multiple homicide as there are no end to litter bugs, tail gaters, trolley rammers, smokers, petty thieves and TV licencing who would lie dead if I could only think them so.

    • January 29, 2017 at 7:23 am

      I’ll keep you company in that cell…

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