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Why R v Stone and Dobinson is important

R v Stone and Dobinson is an example of circumstances where a duty to prevent the victim’s death was found by a court. The Court emphasised the defendant’s assumption of responsibility to the victim.


Mr Stone was blind, partially deaf and of low intelligence and lived with his housekeeper, Dobinson, who had learning difficulties. They were then joined in their property by Mr Stone’s sister as their lodger, who was suffering with anorexia nervosa at the time. His sister also suffered from a number of mental health conditions.

The two defendants agreed to look after Mr Stone’s sister whilst she lived with them. However, they did not continue these efforts and she was found dead shortly afterwards in disgusting conditions.

Conviction at Issue

The defendants were convicted of manslaughter.

Issue facing the Court

Whether the two defendants owed a duty of care to the victim so that their omission could be said to have caused her death.


Stone and Dobinson were found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter.

The court held that the defendants had assumed responsibility for the victim upon agreeing to look after her. For Mr Stone, she was his blood relative (his sister). Dobinson had assumed a responsibility for the victim by agreeing to care for her and by providing her with food at the beginning of her time living with them. This meant that their omission to provide this care and to alert the relevant medical authorities to her condition, made them liable for her death.

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