Mens Rea Cases

Mens Rea Cases summarised into 3 bullet points on each card. 

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R v Gray (1965)

  • Gray (Father) kills 11 year old son who's suffering extreme pain from terminal cancer by administering an overdose of drugs and gas.
  • Gray was charged with murder, but successfully pleaded diminished responsibility
  • His motive may have been good, but the Actus Reus and Mens Rea were present

With this case, we ask ourselves two things:

Did he Intend to kill his son?

Did he Desire to kill him?

This case teaches us that Desire is NOT the same as Intention.  

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Steane (1947)

Defendant (Steane)

  • British actor living in Germany at the beginning of WWII - Arrested by Gestapa
  • Two choices:
  • Read the news everyday on the radio for them OR
    They'll send him & his family to a concentration camp.
  • At the end of the war, British Forces arrested him and charged him with
    "doing acts likely to assist the enemy with intent to assist" 

    Steane was acquitted of his conviction as the judges said that he did not have the necessary intention to assist the enemy. 

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Hyam (1975)

Defendant (Hyam)

  • Set fireto ahousein themiddle of the night-wantedtoscarethewomanliving there away from her boyfriend. However, her actions killed the child living at the house.
  • House of Lords (Supreme Court)decided that Mrs Hyam had forseen the consequences of her actions as highly probable and this amounted to intention.
  • The jury's decision was that Mrs Hyam was Guilty of Murder.

    In this case, the Judge is telling the Jury that foresight is intention. 

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Moloney (1985)

Defendant (Moloney)

  • Drinking at Party - Argument with Step Dad over wanting to leave the army.
    To settle this, a Quick on the Draw battle with real shotguns was decided.
  • Defendant loaded his gun first, Step Dad teased Defendant by saying. 

    "Go ahead, if you've got the guts"

  • Defendant fired and called the police 
  • "I've murdered by Step Father, I didn't aim, i just pulled the trigger and he was dead

    2 Questions:

    a) Was death or serious injury a Natural Consequence of D's act?

    b) Did D forsee the consequence as a Natural Consequence of his actions? 

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Hancock and Shankland

  • Defendants wanted to stop a miner going back to work and breaking the strike. He was being taken to work in a taxi with a police escort and H + S dropped a concrete block off the bridge onto the car. Their aim was to scare him.
  • The defendants actually hit the taxi and killed the driver.
  • The decision ruled by the jury was Manslaughter.  

In this case, the judges disapproved of the words "Natural Consequence" because it was too vague. They said:

1) High probability = more likely there was intention for the result

2) Probability is only one factor to be taken into account by a jury

3) Doesn't give rise to an automatic conclusion that someone intended the result 

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Nedrick (1986)

  • Nedrick (Defendant) had agrudge against a woman so in the middle of the night hepouredparafen through herletterboxandset fireto herhouse
  • He claimed all he wanted to do was scare her and a child was killed in the fire. 
  • Two questions are asked: 

1) How probably was the consequence which resulted from the defendant's voluntary act?

2) Did he foresee that consequence as a virtual certainty of his actions?

If the answers yes, then a jury may infer intent

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Woolin (1998)

  • Woolin (Defendant) threw his 3 months old son baby against a wall, fracturing his skull. He claimed that he'd picked up the child after he began to choke and shake him, then in a fit of rage or frustration, threw him with considerable force towards a pram four or five feet away. 
  • He didn't deny the Actus Reas, but denied having the Mens Rea for Murder.
    At trial, the Judge told the jury they might infer intention if satisfied that when Woolin threw the child, he had appreciated that there was a 'substantial risk' that he would cause serious harm.
  • He was convicted of Murder and appealed on the basis that the phrase 'substantial risk' was a test of recklessness, not intent. The judge should have used 'virtual certainty'. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, but the House of Lords unanimously reversered that courts decision, quashed the murder convicted and substituted one of Manslaughter.

    In this case, the words "May Infer Intent" are taken from the case of Nedrick (1986) were replaced by the words "Are Entitled to Find Intent". 

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D.P.P. v Smith (1961)

  • Policeman tried to stop Defendant driving off with stolen goods by jumping onto the bonnet of the car. D drove off at speed & zigzagged in order to get the officer off the car. D argued he didn't intend to harm the Policeman. He was knocked onto the path of an oncoming car & killed.
    D was convicted of Murder.
  • Judge told the Jury: if you're satisfied that the D must have known GBH was likely to happen to the officer & it did, and the D died in consequence, then they're guilty of capital murder. However, if you're not satisfied that the D did intend to inflict GBH onto the officer & didn't think it would happen or result to the officer in consequence of his actions - then the verdicts manslaughter.
  • Jury convicted D of Murder & he appealed on the grounds that it was a mis-direction and that a subjective test should apply. The Court of Appeal quashed his conviction for Murder & substituted a Manslaughter conviction applying a subjective test. The Prosecution appealed to the House of Lords who re-instated the Murder conviction and held that there was no mis-direction thereby holding an objective test was applicable. 
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S.8 Criminal Justice Act (1967)

A Court, or Jury,

  • Shall not be bound to infer that he intended or foresaw a result of his actions by reason only of it being a natural and probable consequence of his actions,
  • Shall decided whether he did intend or foresee that result by referring to all the evidence, drawing such inferences as appear propper in the circumstances.

    The result of this act is that the Mens Rea for Murder is now a Subjective test again. 

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Pembliton (1874)

This case demonstrates 'Transferred Malice'.

  • Pembliton (Defendant)was a member of a group who were fighting outside a pub called the Grand Turk. He picked up a large stone and threw it at those with whom he had been fighting.
  • The stone passed over their heads and broke a window. The defendant was indicted for "unlawfully and maliciously"committing damage under theMalicious Damage Act 1861, s51.
  • The jury found that he had intended to strike the persons at whom he aimed the stone and that he didnotintend to break the window. 

The conviction was Quashed.

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Latimer (1886)

This case demonstrates 'Transferred Malice'.

  • Latimer (Defendant)who was quarrelling withC in a pub aimed a blow at him with his belt. The belt glanced offC and severly injuredR. In answer to questions by the recorder the jury found that the striking of R was purely accidental and not such a consequence of the blow as the prisoner ought to have expected to follow.
  • They also found that the blow was unlawful and malicious. L was found guilty of unlawful and malicious wounding.
  • His conviction was affirmed

The Mens Rea can be transferred from the intended victim to the unintended victim within the same crime.

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R v Cox (1992)

  • Dr Cox (Defendant) was charged with the attempted murder of his patient, Mrs Lillian Boyes, who was suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritus and other conditions. She was dying and in extreme pain and pleading for help to die.
  • Before her death Dr Cox administered an injection of potassium chloride in a quantity which could have no therapeutic purpose. Dr Cox admitted giving the injection, but not to having the Mens Rea.
  • Defence argued that his primary purpose was to relieve pain and there was no intent to kill. Mrs Boyes' body has been cremated and there was no way of knowing exactly how she died so he was charged with Attempted Murder. 

Guilty Verdict.

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R v Moor Newcastle Crown Court (1991)

Dr Moor (Defendant)

  • His patient was suffering from bowel cancer, which according to the hospital had been successfully operated on. However, the patient had become depressed, immobile and appeared to be in severe pain.
  • He went into decline and Dr Moor, who had been prescribing diamorphine for some days (5 mgms or 10 mgms) gave him a much higher dose (30mgms) administered by a syringe driver which released the drug slowly over a 24 hour period.
  • The following day Dr Moor administered alarger dose (at least 60mgms) by injection when he attended the patient who was in a coma and breathing in the manner of a person close to death. He claimed that his purpose was to make sure that his patient suffered no break through pain. The patient died within 20 minutesof the injection. 

Decision: Not Guilty of Murder.

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The 'Double Effect'

  • In relation to the cases:R v Cox (1992) andR v Moor Newcastle Crown Court (1991)
  • If a doctor ends a life whilst relieving pain, this will be allowed.
  • This is known as the 'Double Effect'. 

[If someone who is not a doctor was to do the same, they could not use this argument]

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R v Adams Central Criminal Court (1957)

  • This is relevant to the case:R v Moor Newcastle Crown Court (1991) 
  • D, a doctor was charged with "easing the passing" of elderly patients by giving drugs calculated to hasten their deaths (one had left a bequest - including a Rolls-Royce - to him in her will).
  • Devlin J's words were: "doctors have no special defence, but he is entitled to do alll that is proper and necessary to relieve pain even if the measures he takes may incidentally shorten life".
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Cunningham (1957)

  • Cunningham (Defendant) ripped a gas meter from the cellar wall of a house in Bradford in an attempt to steal money from it.
  • He left a ruptured pipe, leaking gas, which seeped through into the neighbouring house, where Sarah Wade (actually the mother of Cunningham's fiancee) inhaled it.
  • Cunningham was convicted of maliciously administering a noxious substance so as to endanger life, contrary to s.23 OAPA 1861. The crux of the matter was whether Cunningham had forseen the risk; that is, the risk of someone inhaling the gas. 

Decision: Originally convicted but on appeal his conviction was quashed because (he himself) didn't forsee the consequence.

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Caldwell (1982)

  • Caldwell (Defendant) had been sacked from his employment at an hotel, became drunk and returned at night to the hotel, setting it on fire. There were ten people resident in the hotel at the time, but the fire was discovered and extinguished before any serious harm could be caused.
  • The defendant pleaded guilty to criminal damage but pleaded not guilty to the more serious charge of criminal damage with intent to endanger life or recklessness as to whether life would be endangered. He argued that due to his drunken state it had never crossed his mind that lives might be endangered by his actions, he had simply set fire to the hotel because of his grudge against his former employer.
  • House of Lords upheld his conviction and formulated what has become known as Caldwell Recklessness Test:

Did the defendant create an OBVIOUR and SERIOUS risk? AND EITHER:

1) Gave no thought to the risk OR

2) Considered the risk, but carried on anyway. 

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R v G and R

  • G and R (Defendants) aged 11 and 12 went camping without their parents approval. They went to the back of the Co-op in Newport Pagnell, lit some newspapers which set fire to a wheelie-bin which set fire to the shop, cause £1m of damage. They were convicted of arson by a jury. Both the judge and jury appear to have been not content with applying the objective approach that the law required in R v Caldwell (1982).
  •  Unanimously, Caldwell was wrongly decided, the test of recklessness was found in the preparatory work of the Law Commission prior to the Criminal Damage Act 1971.
  • The Test Now Is:

    "A person acts recklessly within the meaning of section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 with respect to:

    1) A circumstance when he is aware of a risk that it exists or will exist;

    2) A result when he is aware of a risk that it will occur; 

    And it is, in the circumstances known to him, unreasonable to take the risk." 

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Elliot v C (1983)

  • Defendant was a 14-year old girl of low intelligence (learning difficulties) who had started a fire in a shed. She had poured white spirit on the floor and set it alight. The magistrates applied the test laid down in R v Caldwell but inferred that in his reference to "an obvious risk" Lord Diplock had meant a risk which was obvious to the particular defendant.
  • They acquitted the defendant because they found that the defendant had given no thought at the time to the possibility of there being a risk that the shed and contents would be destroyed, and this risk would not have been obvious to her or appreciated by her if she had thought about the matter. The prosecution appealed by way of case stated. 
  • If the risk is one which would have been obvious to a reasonably prudent person, once it has also been proved that the particular defendant gave no thought to the possibility of there being such a risk, it is not a defence that because of limited intelligence or exhaustion she would not have appreciated the risk even if she had thought about it. 
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