R v Stone

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Judgment Date21 Dec 1976
Judgment citation (vLex)[1976] EWCA Crim J1221-1
Docket NumberNo. 3390/C/76

[1976] EWCA Crim J1221-1



Royal Courts of Justice


Lord Justice Geoffrey Lane

Mr. Justice Nield


Mr. Justice Croom-Johnson

No. 3390/C/76

No. 3391/C/76

John Edward Stone
Gwendoline Dobinson

MR. G. COLES, Q.C. and MR. R. SMITH appeared for the Appellants.

MR. G. RIVLIN appeared for the Crown.


On 18th June, 1976, at Sheffield Crown Court before Mr. Justice Boreham and a jury these two Appellants were convicted of manslaughter. Stone was sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment and Gwendoline Dobinson to 18 months' imprisonment suspended for 2 years. She was also wade the subject of a supervision order. By leave of the single Judge, Stone now appeals against conviction and sentence and Gwendoline Dobinson against conviction.


In 1972, at 75, Broadwater, Bolton-on-Dearne in Yorkshire, there lived three people. Stone, an ex-miner now aged 67, widowed for 10 years, who is partially deaf, almost totally blind and has no appreciable sense of smell; Gwendoline Dobinson, now aged 43, who had been his housekeeper and mistress for some 6 years, and Stone's son called Cyril, aged 34, who is mentally subnormal. Stone is of low average intelligence. Dobinson is described as ineffectual and somewhat inadequate.


There was an addition to that household in 1972. Stone had a younger sister called Fanny, about 61 at the date of her death. She had been living with another sister called Rosy. For some reason, probably because Rosy could not tolerate her any longer, she had decided to leave. She care to live at No. 75, where she occupied a small front room She was in receipt of a pension of £11.60 per week and gave her brother £1.50 towards the rent. She was eccentric in man ways. She was morbidly and unnecessarily anxious about putting; on weight and so denied herself proper meals. She would take to her room for days. She would often stay in her room all day until the two Appellants went to the public house in the evening, when she would creep down and make herself a meal.


In early Spring 1975 the Police called at the house. Faring had been found wandering about in the street by herself without apparently knowing where she was. This caused the Appellants to try and find Fanny's doctor. They tried to trace him through Rosy, but having walked a very considerable distance in their search they failed. It transpired that they had walked to the wrong village. Fanny herself refused to tell them the doctor's name.


She thought she would be "put away" if she did. Nothing more was done to enlist outside professional aid.


In the light of what happened subsequently there can be no doubt that Fanny's condition over the succeeding weeks and months must have deteriorated rapidly. By July she was, it seems, unable or unwilling to leave her bed and, on the 19th of that month, the next-door neighbour, Mrs. Wilson, gallantly volunteered to help the female Appellant to wash Fanny. She states: "On the 19th July Mrs. Dobinson and I went to Fanny's room in order to clean her up. When I went into the room there was not a strong smell until I moved her. Her nightdress was wet and messed with her own excreta and the dress had to be cut off. I saw her back was sore; I hadn't seen anything like that before. I took the bedclothes off the bed. They were all wet through and messed. And so was the mattress. I was there for about two hours and Mrs. Dobinson helped. She was raw, her back, shoulders, bottom and down below between her legs. Mrs. Dobinson appeared to me to be upset because Fanny had never let her attend to her before. I advised Mrs. Dobinson to go to the Social Services.".


Emily West, the licensee of the local public house, the Crossed Daggers, gave evidence to the effect that during the whole of the period, from the 19th July onwards, the Appellants came to the public house every night at about 7.00 p.m. The Appellant Dobinson was worried and told Emily west that Fanny would not wash, go to the toilet or eat or drink. As a result Emily West immediately advised Dobinson to get a doctor and when told that Fanny's doctor lived at Doncaster, Emily West suggested getting a local one. It seems that some efforts were made to get a local doctor, but the neighbour who volunteered to do the telephoning (the Appellants being incapable of managing the instrument themselves) was unsuccessful.


On the 2nd August, 1975, Fanny was found by Dobinson to be dead in her bed. The Police were called. On arrival they found there was no ventilation in the bedroom, the window had to be hammered open and the bed was so sited that it was impossible to get the door fully open.


At one side of the bed on a chair was an empty mineral bottle and on the other chair a cup. Under the bed was an empty polythene bucket. Otherwise there was no food, washing or toilet facilities in the room. There was excreta on the bed and floor. It was a scene of dreadful degradation.


The pathologist, Dr. Usher, gave evidence that the deceased was naked, emaciated, weighing five stone and five pounds, her body ingrained with dirt, lying in a pool of excrement. On the bed on which she was lying were various filthy and crumpled bed-clothes, some of which were soaked in urine. There was excreta on the floor and wrapped in newspapers alongside the bed. There was a tidemark of excreta corresponding with the position in which her body was lying.


At the mortuary Dr. Usher found the deceased's body to be ulcerated over the right hip joint and on the underside of the left knee; in each case the ulceration went down to the bone. There were maggots in the ulcers. He found pressure sores over the back of the right shoulder, the outside of the left kneecap to the underside of the left knee, over the right hip joint, to the inner aspect of the left shin and on the left instep where the body had been lying. Such ulcers could not have been produced in less than two to three weeks. The ulcers were due to the general poor condition of the skin and the protruding bones which would have had a greater effect upon her than a normal person. She was soaked in urine and excreta.


Her stomach contained no food products but a lot of bile stained fluid. She had not eaten recently. He found no natural disease. The disinclination to eat was a condition of anorexia nervosa which was not a physical condition but a condition of the brain or mind.


She had been requiring urgent medical attention for sore days or even weeks. He said, "If two weeks prior to my seeing the body she had gone into hospital them is a distinct possibility that they may have saved her; and three weeps earlier the chances would have been good. If her condition on 19th July was no worse than that described by Mrs. Wilson, then her survival would have been probable".


He said that the cause of death was (1) Toxemia spreading from the infected pressure areas (this could have been alleviated by keeping her clean) and (2) prolonged immobilisation. There was no physical reason for her being immobile. Death was due to immobilisation, which caused the pressure sores, and lack of food. Depression might have caused the lack of mobility. The sores on the left knee he thought did not develop in two weeks. Lack of ventilation would have aggravated the other matters. with regard to the condition of the mattress, he thought it would take weeks to get into that condition.


The prosecution alleged that in the circumstances the Appellants had undertaken the duty of caring for Fanny who was incapable of looking after herself, that they had, with gross negligence, failed in that duty, that such failure caused her death and teat they were guilty of manslaughter.


The Appellant Dobinson was seen by Detective inspector Ashton on the 2nd August, 1975. She said, in answer to questions, that the deceased had been living in the state she was found for months now, but that she had never complained. She said that the deceased provided her own meals but is she wanted anything from the shops the deceased told her. The deceased would only have biscuits and pop. She would not eat much else because she said it made her fat. Mrs. Wilson actually did the shopping and she, Dobinson, signed the deceased's pension book because the deceased did not seem as though she could be bothered with anything. The Appellant said she kept telling Ted (the other Appellant), but that he would not do anything. He just told her, "Leave it while tomorrow". She was asked why she did not get help and she replied, "I asked him to met a doctor. He said he had tried to, but because the deceased was not on his panel the doctor wouldn't come".


When asked why she did not speak to the lady next door or to Mrs. Wilson's daughter, who was a nurse, she is said to have replied, "I daren't. He is boss down there. I daren't do anything unless he tells me. She is not my sister, so I left it to him." When asked, "You are a woman and you go into her bedroom. Your own commonsense would tell you that she needed attention?" She is said to have replied, "She never complained so I didn't bother." When asked, "Did you change her bed or see she was washed?" she replied, "About three weeks ago me and Mrs. Wilson gave her a wash down and tried to clean her up." When asked, "What did you think of her at that tine?" she replied, "She was all sore and filthy." When asked why she did not call someone she is said to have replied, "She didn't complain, so I left her."


In evidence she denied those parts of her statement which incriminated Stone. She disputed that she said, "She dare not do anything without Ted" and "he just would not bother to do anything...

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36 cases
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    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal
    • 8 November 1994
    ...8In Stone and Dobinson 1977 1 QB 354, this court had to consider a case concerning an inadequate couple who had undertaken the care of Stone's sister. Her death occurred through their neglect. It was accepted that the prosecution had to prove gross negligence (361A). However, contrary to th......
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  • Airedale NHS Trust v Bland
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    • House of Lords
    • 4 February 1993
    ...will be guilty at least of manslaughter. The same is true of one having charge of an adult who is frail and cannot look after herself: Reg. v. Stone [1977] Q.B. 354. It was argued for the guardian ad litem, by analogy with that case, that here the doctors in charge of Anthony Bland had a c......
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2 books & journal articles
  • Expert Evidence and Medical Manslaughter: Vagueness in Action
    • United Kingdom
    • Journal of Law and Society Nbr. 38-4, December 2011
    • 1 December 2011
    ...14.9 S. Gardner, `Manslaughter by Gross Negligence' (1995) 111 Law Q. Rev. 22, at 26.10 Bateman, op. cit., n. 6; Rv. Stone and Dobinson [1977] Q.B. 354.11 Rv. Misra, Srivastava [2004] EWCA Crim 2375.ß2011 The Author. Journal of Law and Society ß2011 Cardiff University Law difference given t......
  • Ignorance of the Criminal Law, and Duties to Avoid it
    • United Kingdom
    • The Modern Law Review Nbr. 74-1, January 2011
    • 1 January 2011
    ...Lowe [1973] QB 702 andAshworth,n 2 above, 275.57 n 28 above.58 Prenti ce [1994]QB 302.59 Wa c k er [2 003] QB 1203.60 Stoneand Dobinson [1977]QB 354. Much more couldbe said about this decision, not least becauseof doubts thatthe defe ndantswere intellectually capable of understanding what t......

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