Intoxication In Common Law

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Intoxication may be defined as a state where the intoxicated man is rendered incapable of knowing the nature of his act, or that his act is one which is either wrong or contrary to law. A person may be intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.
The simplest argument as to why intoxication may be used as a defence, if a person is in an intoxicated state, and is not aware of what he is doing, there can be no mens-rea and thus he cannot be guilty of a crime. No man should be convicted of a serious offence unless he acted voluntarily and he was at least aware that when he acted his conduct might cause damage of the kind forbidden by the offence with which he is charged. This is however a much too simplistic argument and cannot be used in all circumstances.
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In terms of offences that require mens-rea or intent as a constituent element, a condition which prevents an individual from forming the necessary mental condition is generally taken as an excuse and this explanation has been accepted by number of theorists of criminal law and on basis of this I would like to refer some judgments of Common Law Context.
In the case of Attorney-General Northern Ireland v. Gallagher [6] where voluntary intoxication was not admitted as a defence by the judges while convicting the accused. Here, intoxication was seen separate from the ability to form an intention or not, and since the Intention to commit the particular crime had existed in the accused’s mind, the exact mental condition at the time of commission of the crime was ignored. So we can infers that the excuse which the judiciary was seeking to apply was that of inability to form intention, due to intoxication, and not intoxication by
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One of the main functions of Criminal Law is to exert a deterrence effect, in trying to protect major social and individual interests of the people,[30] while increasing the rate of conviction. Adherence to these purposes of Criminal Law may present a good case for convicting people indulging in criminal conduct, even in the absence of mental element or mens-rea. There is a conceptual issue with formulation of such policy, for the conviction of offenders in the absence of intention, in cases of offences where it is a requirement. The first is that an individual’s behavior in an intoxicated state, does not respond to pragmatic ideas of deterrence and rationale. An individual who is so intoxicated as not able to form an intention to commit a crime, is not subject to rational conditions which the law is assuming while applying the deterrence
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