R v Instan

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R v. Instan (1893) 1 QB 450 is an English criminal law case, relating to actus reus, and an example of where the common law imposes the duty of care onto someone who voluntarily undertook the care of another.


The defendant lived with her aunt aged 73 years. The aunt was healthy until shortly before her death. During the last 12 days of her life, she had been incapacitated by a gangrenous foot to the point of immobility. Only the defendant knew of this condition. She appeared not to have made any attempts in obtaining treatment or care for the aunt, neither did she provide her with food,[1] but continued residence and dependency on her aunt's estate.[2] Subsequent to this, the aunt died and the defendant was charged and convicted of manslaughter.


The niece was found guilty of manslaughter, on the basis that she had accepted her aunt's money in order to make payment concerning the food items, yet was not entitled to "apply it all for her own use". This generated a duty of care from the niece towards the aunt. The intentional neglect of the aunt was consequently a crime. Lord Coleridge CJ wrote that despite the lack of statute or precedent, it would be "a slur on justice" were the niece's behaviour to go unpunished.

“It would not be correct to say that every moral obligation involves a legal duty; but every legal duty is founded on a moral obligation.”

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Allen, M J and Cooper, S, Elliott and Wood's cases and materials on Criminal Law (10th edn. Sweet & Maxwell, London 2010
  2. ^ Martin, J and Storey, T, Unlocking Criminal Law (Unlocking the Law 4th edn. Routledge, Oxon 2013

External links[edit]

  • Bailii.org, a free online database for English and Irish legal materials.