In R v Caldwell (1982) the accused, an employee of a hotel who had some grievances against the owners, got very drunk and set fire to the property. There were 10 guests in the hotel at the time. Fortunately, the fire was discovered in time and no harm had befallen any of the guests.
Caldwell was convicted upon two counts of arson. The second count was laid under section 1 (1) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 – arson destroying property belonging to another. The first and more serious count was laid under section 1 (2) of the 1971 act – arson endangering life. The accused appealed,
The House of Lords upheld the conviction and defined recklessness as follows: –
(1) A person is guilty of recklessness when he does an act which in fact creates a risk that property will be destroyed or damaged and
(2) when he does the act he either has not given any thought to the possibility of there being any such risk or has recognized that there was some risk involved and has nonetheless gone on to commit the act.
In R v Stephenson (1979) the defendant was a homeless schizophrenic who had sought refuge in a haystack. He lit a fire to keep himself warm and unfortunately in so doing set fire to the whole haystack. He was convicted in the first instance by a jury but the conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the test that should have been applied was the subjective test i.e. we have to look at it from the defendant’s perspective or we have to take into account the defendant’s state of mind at the time he committed the act.
Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward