Proposals for Reform on Intoxication

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The 1975 Butler Committee

Proposal of the creation of a new offence of "Dangerous Intoxication".

The idea being that the D would be convicted of this offence if he was acquitted of the original offence due to being intoxicated. Following the acquittal of the original offence, the D would then be convicted of 'dangerous intoxication'. It was proposed that such an offence would carry a maximum sentence of one year's imprisonment for a first offence and a max of three years for any further offences.

This aimed at balancing public protection against the defendant's rights. The D would not be liable for the main serious offence and a longer prison sentence, but could still be convicted under the new proposed sentence.

Rejected: This is because it was believed that this proposal did not distinguish how serious the original offence was. It meant that those who had killed would have been treated in the same way as those who had committed Assault,

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The Law Commission 1993 and 1995

In 1993 The Law Commission proposed that evidence of voluntary intoxication should be available for all offences on the issue of mens rea. This would allow a D to be acquitted if he did not have the necessary mens rea. Like the Butler Committee, they also proposed a seperate offence. This time of 'criminal intoxication'.

The idea was abandoned and the 1995 report of the Law Commision proposed codifying the law as it then stood with just some minor amendments. This included the rules in Majewski. However no action was ever taken.

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Intoxication and Criminal Liability 2009 Overview

  • The Distinction between Voluntary and Involuntary should be kept.
  • The use of the terms 'specific' and 'basic' intent should be abolished.
  • Instead offences should be categorised as those where mens rea is an integral fault element and those where it is NOT.
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Intoxication and Criminal Liability 2009: Voluntar

Where D was voluntary intoxicated, the Law Commission proposed:

  • there should be a general rule that where D is charged with an offence for which mens rea is not an integral fault element, then D  should be treated as being aware of anything he would have been aware of if he had been sober.
  • this rule would not apply to offences where the required mens rea involved intention as to a consequence, knowledge, fraud or dishonesty.
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Intoxication and Criminal Liabilty 2009: Involunta

The Law Commission proposed that there should be a list of situations which would count as involuntary. They suggested that these should include spiked drinks, D being forced to take an intoxicating substance, D reasonably believing that the substance was an intoxicant and situations where the substance was taken for 'proper medical purposes'.

Where D was involuntarily intoxicated then this should be taken into account when considering whether D has the required mens rea. Therefore this confirms the law in Kingston.

The Law Commission rejected these proposals.

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