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Molly Mole Criminologist - Omission and Commission

Updated on July 27, 2017

Almost a week had gone by and in that time Molly had managed to ease into her new role relatively well. She’d managed to make the transition from student to teacher comfortably enough and she was determined to help see her students through. Her third class still revolved around the physical elements in a crime.

She began her class in the customary manner by asking a few questions. “Can anyone tell me what are the two ingredients or components to a crime?” she asked. Otto was the first to put up his hand and Molly pointed to him. “The mental and physical element” he replied.

Molly nodded her head and pointed to Olly, “Can you please elaborate on that Olly?” she asked and the owl promptly replied “yes, thought and action, the thought of committing the crime, which is not necessarily in itself an offence and the act of committing it” he said and Molly nodded her head.

“Now, can anyone tell me if it is possible to commit a crime without an act or without any action or by refraining from acting?” she asked and the class remained silent. Molly smiled; they were all astute enough to guess that it was a trick question. “Well” she said after taking a quick glance around the room, looking at the blank faces that prevailed, “the answer in short, is yes”.

“It happens when there is a duty to care for someone”. “The most common duty of care is the parent-child relationship”. “Parents by virtue of having a child or children are compelled by law to care for their child or children and therefore can be found guilty when that duty of care is not met and some harm befalls the child as a result of the breach of duty of care or the duty to care for the child”.

“It is simply the breach of a duty imposed by law and the defendant is guilty if the breach causes some damage to the child or results in a fatality”.

“In most counties the failure to care for a child can be interpreted as child abuse especially where there is an imminent risk to the child’s health and welfare and it is typically associated to children under the age of 18”.

“The harm that results from the breach of the duty of care must be inflicted by non accidental means including carelessness for example leaving a child home alone or other negligent acts”.

As soon as she’d finished, Wally raised his hand and Molly pointed to him. “Does that mean that the police are under a duty to protect me if I’m in danger?” he asked with a smile and Sally who was a member of Hicksville Metropolitan’s finest couldn’t help but glare at him.

Molly replied with a shake of the head. “The police do not have a duty to protect you”. “Even if you had called them and said to them that there is a stalker prowling around in your backyard and it later turned out that there was indeed a stalker who later attacked you and made away with your valuables, and the 911 conversation was recorded, the police are still not under an obligation to protect you” she said.

“Duty of care can alternatively equate to a reasonable standard that one has to observe while carrying out certain duties and it is more evident when there is a close proximity between the offender and the victim than otherwise” she added.

“I’ll revert once again to the parent-child relationship where a duty is imposed because of familial bonds. We are safe in saying that parents have to take reasonable steps to care for their children and a failure to care for their children is sometimes also known as a crime of omission or a failure to act when there is a duty imposed either by common law or statute to act”.

“There are obviously other extensions to the Duty of Care for example the Duty to Rescue whereby citizens are under a moral obligation to try and help their fellow citizens but a failure to do so will not attract any liability”.

“In a nutshell the physical element in a crime may not only be satisfied by carrying out certain actions but it can also be satisfied by failing to act in a specific manner” she concluded.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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