Crime CLXXII-Criminal Damage XII

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. The defendant was charged under s1.1 of the Criminal Damage Act (1971) for causing damage to the amount of £3500. He was convicted in the first instance by a jury and the defense appealed.

The conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the test that should have been applied was the subjective test (subjective recklessness) i.e. the court should look at it from the perspective of the defendant and not the perspective of the ordinary man or the reasonable man.

As per R v Cunningham (1957) (subjective recklessness), in order to obtain a conviction, the prosecution must establish: –

(1) An actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was

done; or

(2) Recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not. It is neither limited to nor does it indeed require any ill will towards the person injured.

In order to satisfy either of the two limbs above, the prosecution must establish that the defendant was aware of his actions, or at the very least be aware that his actions would cause some sort of damage. If the defendant lacked awareness that it would be difficult to establish subjective recklessness.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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