The Success of the Courts in Defining Intention

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The Success of the Courts in Defining Intention

The Mens Rea of a crime refers to the mental element or the state of

mind the defendant possesses in order to be liable for an offence.

Mens Rea can be any one of four elements, Transferred Malice,

Recklessness, Gross Negligence or Intention. It is crimes of specific

intent such as murder which require a Mens Rea of either direct or

oblique intent. Direct intent is where the defendant desires the

consequences and it is his or her purpose to achieve these

consequences. An example of direct intent would be September 11th

2001. Oblique intent is where the defendant doesn’t desire the

consequences but it is a virtually certain result of their actions.

It is this area of intention that has caused problems and confusion in

the law.

In order to prove intention the jury must decide how foreseeable the

defendant’s actions were to cause the consequences. There is however

two measures used for foreseeability, highly probable and virtually

certain. Unfortunately it has not been made clear which measure to

follow. The current state of the law on intention was expressed by

the House of Lords in the case of R v Woollin 1998. This case

modified an earlier direction made by the Court of Appeal in the case

of R v Nedrick. In Woollin the law lords expressed that intention can

only be established if the defendant knew that the consequences would

be a virtually certain result of his actions. However this has not

always been the case.

The first major case in determining intention was the case of DPP v

Hyam 1975 where the defendant poured pe...

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Commission’s view that both direct and oblique intent should continue

to satisfy the legal requirements of intention.

In conclusion, the explanation of foresight of consequences in

Nedrick, where appropriate, are relevant to all offences and not just

murder. The Criminal Law now states that a consequence is intended

when it is the purpose of the accused. A court or jury may also infer

that a consequence is intended, though it is not desired, when the

consequence is a virtually certain result of the act and when the

accused knows that it is a virtually certain consequence. This area

of law has proved to be confusing to both juries and judges due to the

uncertainty of precedent. As the law stands today it appears to have

reached a decision of virtually certain but as before is not certain

to remain.

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