Intoxicated Mistake

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  • Intoxicated Mistake
    • Some intoxicated mistakes negate mens rea
      • Intoxication where a pathological change in brain due to prolonged alcohol/drug abuse
        • Could = disease of the mind (M'Naghten) - Davis (1881)
          • the law 'has to consider the state of mind the accused is in, not how he got there' (Devlin J in Kemp [1957])
            • Mental abnormality which falls short of M'Naghten insanity will not affect responsibility unless D's condition falls within scope of s.2 Homicide Act
              • Alcoholism per se does not constitute DR (R v Wood [2009]; R v Steward [2009])
    • Only available for crimes of specific intent
      • e.g. E mistakenly takes an umbrella from a pub, believing mistakenly that it is hers (due to drunkenness)
        • Defence to theft, mens rea (dishonesty + intention to permanently deprive) unable to be proved
      • Fotheringham (1989) D could not rely on intoxicated belief that 14-year old in his bed was his wife and so consenting (rape is a crime of negligence - basic intent)
    • Can D rely on a non-definitional defence - self-defence/duress?
      • No - a drunken mistaken cannot excuse or justify crime
        • Excuses: duress/loss of self-control  because --> reasonable people do not make drunken mistakes and reasonableness of response is at centre of duress/loss of self-control
          • Cf. Letenock (1917) - unlikely to still be forceful today
      • Can drunk people rely on affirmative defences (self-defence)
        • Self-defence can be relied upon where D honestly believes he is the victim of an attack/threatened attack even if this mistake is unreasonable (Beckford [1987])
          • O'Conner [1991] - a drunken mistake can only be used to negate mens rea (only for crimes of specific intent)
            • So could not be used for a cognate defence, confirmed in Hatton [2005] CA
              • Enshrined in statute: s.76(4)(b) Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 - for purpose of self-defence D cannot rely on any mistaken belief attributable to voluntary intoxication
                • D could rely on intoxication to say he did not intend to kill or commit GBH e.g. to show he was unaware gun was loaded or punches life-threatening
                • Cf. Jaggard v Dickinson [1980] - mistake induced by intoxication may be operative even for crimes of basic intent
                  • Facts: D, drunk, broke into house, thought was friends, charged with criminal damage (basic intent)
                    • Under s.5(2) +(3) 1971 CD Act defence if believed owner would consent even if belief is unjustified - she had this belief, reasonableness irrelevant
                      • Appeal allowed - decision consistent with Morgan + Beckford but not with principle that intoxication only relevant for specific intention crimes
    • Even where produces defects similar to insanity/automatism - impairment of D's powers of reasoning (R v Coley, McGhee and Harris [2013]....
      • ...the defendant is treated as responsible where his unconsciousness/lack of understanding is due to prior fault
        • Involuntary intoxication does not count as prior fault (voluntary does) and so acts as an external trigger for purposes of automatism
          • Fault between automatism + intoxication examined in Beard
            • claim of automatism unsuccessful - not acting involuntarily, conscious + purposive, he could rely on intoxication - negating specific intent necessary for murder but not for manslaughter/rape - both basic intent crimes


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