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R v Gibbins and Proctor (1918)

Court of Appeal Criminal Division


The father of a seven year old girl lived with his partner. The father had several other children from an earlier marriage. He and his partner kept the child separate from the father's other children and deliberately withheld food from the child with intent to seriously harm her. They did this until she starved to death.


The defendants were found guilty for the murder of the child. As a parent/guardian they were under a legal duty to care for her. The father was under a duty because he was her parent, and his partner because she was receiving money from the father for her food and clothing.


English law clearly imposes on parents and guardians a legal duty to safeguard both the health and welfare of their children. Failure to do this can often result in criminal liability for the parent or guardian.

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