Master of Laws




Professor Andrew Botterell


Do the actions of parents in withholding medical treatment from their children due to religious influence show wanton or reckless disregard for the safety and lives of their children? This project investigates the morally and legally complicated issue of the influence of religious beliefs in criminal negligence cases. My MRP is animated by the idea that similar cases in the past have been treated with leniency and ought to be given stricter punishments.

I focus in particular on cases in which parents opt for alternative remedies or faith healing for ill children in ignorance or defiance of available medical treatments. I investigate the role of mistake of fact based on honest belief in prosecutions for criminal negligence causing death. Furthermore, I develop an argument that reliance on religious beliefs should not exculpate an accused parent from liability in criminal negligence cases.

I argue that similar cases in the past have been treated with great leniency. This research proposes that cases of faith healing deaths be treated as cases of manslaughter, namely under section 222(5)(b), and that a minimum sentence of six years’ imprisonment be imposed for the death of vulnerable children.