This is the principle that the defendant can be guilty if he intended to commit a cimilar crime but against a different victim. An example is aiming a blow at one person with the necessary mens rea for assault causing ABH, but actually hitting another person which occurred in Latimer (1886).
However, where the mens rea if for a completely different type of offence tn the defendant may not be guilty. This was stated in Pembliton (1874), where the defendant threw a stone, intending to hit people with whom he had been fighting. The stone ht and broke a window. The intention to hit people could not be transferred to the window.
The doctrine of transferred malice was confirmed obiter dicta by the House of Lords in the case of Attorney-General's Reference (No 3 of 1994) (1997).
In some cases the defendant might not have a specific victim in mind: for example who plants a bomb in a pub, intending to kill or injure anyone who happens to be there. In this case the mens rea is held to apply to the actual victim.
Coincidence of Actus Reus and Mens Rea
In order for an offence to take place, both the actus reus and mens rea must be present at the same time.
In Thabo Meli v R (1954) the defendants attacked a man and believed they had killed him. They then pushed him off the edge of a low cliff. In fact, the man had survived the attack but dies of exposure when unconscious at the foot of the cliff. It was held that the defendants were guilty of muder because the actus reus and mens rea were combined through a series of acts. A similar situation happened in Church (1965).
Where there is a continuing act for the actus reus and at some point whilst the act is still going on the defendant has the necessary mens rea, then the two will coincide and the defendant will be guilty. This is illustrated by Fagan v Metropolitan Police Commissioner (1986).