Crime CXVI – Self Defense VI

A defendant is not entitled to rely on self-defense when there is a mistake of facts induced by voluntary intoxication. In R v O’Grady (1987) the appellant and the victim were friends and they had spent the day, in the company of another friend, drinking. Between them they had consumed eight flagons of cider after which they retired to the appellant’s home.

According to the appellant he was woken up by the victim and the appellant in self-defense picked up some broken glass and started hitting the victim over the head. Once the fight had subsisted, they patched things up and he cooked both his friends a meal and the three of them then went to bed.

The defendant and the other friend woke up the next morning to find the victim dead in bed, he had died as a result of blood loss and further investigation revealed that the victim had over 20 injuries on his face in addition to severe bruises on his head, brain, neck, and chest, and a broken rib. The blows were delivered by a sharp and blunt object.

During the trial (first instance) the judge directed the jury to the effect that the defendant or anyone else for the matter is entitled to defend himself or herself against an imminent threat/attack – “If he made such a mistake in drink he would nevertheless be entitled to defend himself even though he mistakenly believed that he was under an attack”.

However, the defensive measures that the defendant had taken went beyond what was reasonable and his ability to distinguish between what was reasonable and what was not was impaired by the drink and because the measures that he had taken went beyond what was reasonable, the defense of self-defense was not available to him. The jury convicted for manslaughter and the defendant appealed.

The appeal was dismissed, and the conviction was upheld. A defendant is not entitled to rely on self defense when there is a mistake of facts induced by voluntary intoxication.

“There were two public interests to be considered. On the one hand the defendant is entitled to take the steps or measures necessary to protect himself and on the other hand an innocent victim should be protected from the drunken mistake of another”. A defendant cannot rely on the defense of self-defense when death or injury to another results from a mistake caused by his own intoxication.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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