Source: p 61, Criminal Law: The Basics, 1 ed (2009), by Herring

As we saw in Chapter 1, generally a person is not liable for failing to rescue a person from danger, even the danger of death. However, Parliament has created a special offence dealing with those who do not protect children or vulnerable adults from death. It is found in the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004, Section 5.

(1) A person (‘D’) is guilty of an offence if:
(a) a child or vulnerable adult (‘V’) dies as a result of the unlawful act of a person who
  (i) was a member of the same household as V, and
  (ii) had frequent contact with him,
(b) D was such a person at the time of that act,
(c) at that time there was a significant risk of serious physical harm being caused to V by the unlawful act of such a person,...

What are the similarities and differences? What are some formal terms describing this issue? This quote considers a risk, which might not occur. So is being needed? What would change if I omitted being?

  • Can we say "There is risk of harm to V by the act of a person"? Dec 1, 2014 at 13:07
  • They're both "valid", and pragmatically have to end up meaning the same thing. But syntactically, if you don't include being the risk is a just a simple noun phrase (the abstract noun "harm", further described with an adjectival phrase caused to V by the unlawful act of such a person). That's to say there's a risk of that noun/thing "existing". If you do include it, the risk being described is of an action taking place (harm being caused...) Dec 1, 2014 at 13:22
  • ...it's the same as not wanting to risk an accident and not wanting to risk having an accident (i.e. - no real difference in the meaning). Dec 1, 2014 at 13:47

2 Answers 2


The form of "being caused" is a passive-voiced gerund.

A gerund is the noun form of a verb, which lets you refer to an action/activity as a noun (for example, "Running is fun" uses the gerund form of the verb Run, as distinct from the verb as used in the sentences "I am running" and "I run").

The passive voice occurs when the subject and object of the verb are reversed, or when the subject is left unstated.

In this case, "being" is required because the author chose to write:

"serious physical harm being caused by the unlawful act"

...instead of writing:

"the unlawful act causing serious physical harm"

Using a verb in the passive voice requires some form of the verb "to be" (is, was, be, etc).


To put it simply, as written it is saying that there is potentially harm being caused. If you take out "being", then risk is being caused. Think of it in groupings like this, as written, without adjectives:

...there was a risk of (harm being caused to V)...

Without "being":

...there was a (risk of harm) caused to V...

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