Crime CXXVII – Intoxication III

If the defendant either drinks (alcohol) or takes drugs to fortify his courage or to give him “dutch courage” then regardless of whether the crime that is committed is a basic intent crime or a specific intent crime he would not be able to rely on the fact that he was intoxicated at the time and did not have the mens rea to commit the crime as a mitigating factor to reduce the severity of the act.

In Attorney-General of Northern Ireland v Gallagher (1961) the accused had a violent twist to his personality and often acted in a deranged manner, especially after he had consumed alcohol and was particularly violent towards his wife.

The accused spent some time in a mental institution, for which he blamed his wife and upon release he made up his mind to kill her. However, in order to work himself into a fit or to have the courage to kill his wife, he drank down a bottle of whisky, and once he had reached the level of intoxication where he was deprived of his senses, he killed his wife with a knife and a hammer. The accused was charged and convicted of murder. He appealed on the grounds that at the time he committed the act he was deprived of his senses and sought to raise the defense of insanity.

The House of Lords upheld the conviction, in that, at the time he formed the intention to kill his wife, he was in full control of his senses and therefore the act of killing his wife was premeditated and it was done with malice aforethought. The fact that he needed to consume alcohol to acquire the courage to kill his wife does not mitigate the act in anyway.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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