Intoxication Notes

  • Created by: Grace
  • Created on: 06-04-11 19:29
  • The defence is that D was so intoxicated that he lacked the mens rea of the offence
  • The defence reflects the conflict between publick policy and legal principle
  • DPP v Majewski is the leading case. In this case the House of Lords confirmed the basic rule in DPP b beard (1920) that intoxication is no defence to crimes of basic intent, but is a defence to crimes of specific intent.


  • If D is intoxicated but is still aware of what he is doing he will NOT be able to claim intoxication.
  • This is true for involuntary intoxication and voluntary intoxication (R v Sheehan - "A drunken intent is nevertheless an intent")

VOLUNTARY intoxication

  • Where D has voluntarily consumed alcohol/drugs known to make people aggressive or out of control (In Bailey these were referred to as "dangerous drugs")
  • Voluntary intoxication is a defence to crimes of specific intent (crimes requiring intention, mens rea which an intoxicated person may not have), but no basic intent (R v Lipman, which was a case where the defendent took LSD and killed his girlfriend by losing control and thinking she was a snake trying to attack him. As this was a basic intent crime because he was reckless, he couldn't use this as a defence)
  • Not realising how strong a drink is will be classed as voluntary intoxication (R v Allen) - If the person is drinking a beer but does not realise it's been spiked then this will be voluntary intoxication, however if the person is drinking an orange juice but does not realise it's been spiked then he will be involuntary intoxicated.

So what mens rea (guilty mind) must actually be proved for basic intent crimes (commited with recklessness) where D is voluntary intoxicated?

  • In Majewski the Law Lords said that if D was voluntarily intoxicated and is charged with a crime of basic intent then he is automatically guilty (assuming he's done the actus reus) However following R v Richardson and Irwin (1999) it was not quite as simple...


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