Case Study 2 Essay

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R. v. Dudley and Stephens (1884) 14 QBD 273

A crew of four people were stranded on a lifeboat after their yacht Mignonette sank on July 5, 1884. It consisted of Tom Dudley, the captain, Edwin Stephens, Edmund Brooks, and Richard Parker, the cabin boy. They were able to survive on two 1 pound turnip can for three days. After this on the fourth day they survived on a sea turtle for a couple of more days. They were far from land and they had nothing to eat. The water they drank was from the rain that they caught with the turtle shell. On the eighteenth day the four men talked about sacrificing one of the group so that they could have something to eat. They were talking about Richard Parker; he wasn’t informed because he was sometimes unconscious due to his hunger and him drnking sea water. Two of the men agreed except for Brooks. On the nineteenth day they decided on lots being cast to see who would be sacrificed but still Brooks refused to take part. On the twentieth day they slit Parkers throat and ate him for four days. A passing vessel Passed and saved the tree men. When they returned to England Tom Dudley and Edwin Stephens were sentenced to death for the murder of Richard Parker. Later because of the unusual nature of the situation the two men (Dudley and Stephens) gained the public’s sympathy, so Queen Victoria used a special power called the Royal Prerogative of mercy to commute the men’s sentence to them serving time in prison which back then was six months.

The dispute was whether necessity is a defence for someone who is being charged for murder. The argument is that killing another to satisfy one's self, in this case Tom Dudley and Edwin Stephens 's hunger, doesn’t justify what the murder they committed. Even if they are under extreme hunger. Some of the issues that are stake are morals that we believe in like life is something precious that needs to be protected no matter what. It shouldn’t be taken away just because of our own necessity, it wouldn’t be right. Also if the court were to let this slide it would turn into a slippery slope. people would kill and then just say that it was to save themselves and it couldn’t be helped.

In the end the court with reasoned judgements, found these