Crime CXXVI – Intoxication II

In DPP v Beard (1920) the defendant while he was drunk raped a 13-year-old girl and put his hands around her throat to stop her from screaming. The victim suffocated and died as a result. The defendant was charged.

It was held that voluntary intoxication was never an excuse for criminal misconduct. A man who commits a crime by his own acts that destroy his will power or deprive him of the ability to reason is in no better position than a man who is sober.

However, on a charge of murder, the jury cannot convict if they cannot establish the mens rea i.e. the intention to kill or the intention to cause grievous bodily harm or malice afterthought but can nonetheless convict for manslaughter.

Murder is a specific intent crime (in most instances the mens rea for a specific intent crime is codified by statute) and in order to establish murder, the prosecution must prove, beyond reasonable doubt, the elements that are required to obtain a conviction, but that does not mean that the defendant cannot be charged instead with a basic intent crime where the mens rea is usually recklessness or negligence or where the defendant has not given any thought to the consequences of his actions or having given it some thought has dismissed it.

S.2 (1) of the Homicide Act 1957, while it is more relevant to diminished responsibility gives a better understanding of the subject. The section reads as follows: –

Persons suffering from diminished responsibility.

  1. (1) A person (“D”) who kills or is a party to the killing of another is not to be convicted of murder if D was suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning which—

(a) arose from a recognised medical condition,

(b) substantially impaired D’s ability to do one or more of the things mentioned in subsection (1A), and

(c) provides an explanation for D’s acts and omissions in doing or being a party to the killing.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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