For those unfamiliar with the game “Punch 4 Punch”, as we at UK Criminal Law Blog were, we are reliably informed that the game involves players being filmed with one hand tied behind their backs, punching one another. A seemingly odd form of amusement, the game involves two individuals taking turns to hit one another. The “loser”, or the player who gives up first, then forced to take a forfeit, usually in the form of an alcoholic beverage.
This rather bizarre game can have tragic consequences, as one family from Bexley have sadly found out. Tommy Main, a 23 year old father of one, was playing the game with a friend when he was rushed to hospital having collapsed after being punched in the chest. He later died in hospital. A 20 year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and bailed until September for the police to commence investigations.
Tommy Main, photo: Evening Standard
Whether the game caused Mr Main’s death is yet to be established. However, it brings to mind the “egg-shell skull” rule. Essentially, this rule states that those who commit offences must “take their victim as they find them”. By way of explanation; if set out to steal a handbag, but in doing so you cause your victim to fall the ground, crack their head open and later die, you may be held criminally responsible for their death. Although you may not have intended to kill, therefore may not be guilty of murder, you may be guilty of manslaughter, as death was the result, albeit an unexpected and unintended one.
Joint enterprise is a legal doctrine enabling the CPS to charge a group of individuals with one offence, if they were allegedly acting together, regardless of what role they played. For example, the man who sets out to steal the handbag, may ask someone to drive him to and from the scene of the crime, and therefore that driver can also be charged with theft/robbery/manslaughter/murder, in the same manner that the handbag thief is. In Tommy Main’s case we would speculate that there may well be others involved, who may well face charges under this doctrine.
If the 20 year-old man referred to above is charged with murder, what sentence might he expect to receive? The sentencing guidelines for murder are explained here. If a manslaughter charge is laid, he would be subject to different sentencing considerations and of course the judge would not have to impose a life sentence. Until the case is investigated thoroughly it is simply too early to say what the outcome will be. But this post will be updated as and when there are any developments.