Q) Critically evaluate the law relating to criminal liability for omission. Should there be a general duty to assist persons in peril?
A) According to criminal law omission is failure to act which will give rise to liability only when the law imposes a duty to act and that person is in breach of that duty. Not all the omissions of individuals are criminalised, it depends whether a person is in breach of a special duty, contractual duty or if started a dangerous situation. In English law it is not recognised that an individual has any duty to assist strangers in situations of peril but meanwhile there are other jurisdictions who have adopted general statutory duties to rescue strangers.
In the criminal law, at common law, there was no general duty owed to fellow citizens. The traditional view was encapsulated in the example of watching a person drown in shallow water and making no rescue effort, where commentators stated, "Thou shalt not kill but needst not strive, officiously, to keep another alive."(Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861)) in support of the proposition that the failure to act does not attract criminal liability.
In the drowning example, the accused would be liable if the victim was a child in a pool with a water depth of six inches, or there was a floatation device nearby that could easily be thrown to the victim, or the accused was carrying any device for a source of communication that could be used to ask for help. However, the law will never penalise someone for not jumping into a raging torrent of water that is the law does not require the potential saver to risk drowning even though the individual might be a lifeguard paid to patrol the given beach, river or pool. No matter what the terms of employment are, an employee can never be required to do more than what is reasonable in all the circumstances. In R v Dytham (1979) an on-duty police officer stood and watched a man beaten to death outside a nightclub. He then left without calling for...