Crime CXXXIII – Intoxication IX

A year later in R v Hardie (1984) another exception was added, in that, while intoxication was not a defense to basic intent crimes, it is a mitigating factor when the drugs that were taken were merely soporific or sedative. It is to some extent possible to say that intoxication is not a defense to basic intent crimes or crimes where the mens rea to obtain a conviction are negligence and recklessness only with regards to offences that are committed after the defendant had been drinking or drinking excessively or after taking illegal drugs or dangerous drugs.

In R v Hardie (1984) the defendant who was distressed after he’d broken up with his partner and was asked to leave the flat, took some out of date valium tablets that were not prescribed to him, and returned later and set fire to a wardrobe in his bedroom. The defendant was charged under s.1(2) and s.1(3) of the Criminal Damage Act (1971) which reads as follows: –

s.1(2) A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property, whether belonging to himself or another—

(a)intending to destroy or damage any property or being reckless as to whether any property would be destroyed or damaged; and

(b)intending by the destruction or damage to endanger the life of another or being reckless as to whether the life of another would be thereby endangered;

shall be guilty of an offence

s.1(3) An offence committed under this section by destroying or damaging property by fire shall be charged as arson.

According to the defendant while he remembered being in the room he could not remember setting fire to the wardrobe. The trial judge directed the jury to the effect that voluntary intoxication is not a defense when it comes to basic intent crimes (crimes that resulted from the defendant’s negligence or recklessness) – the mens rea to obtain a conviction under s.1(2) of the Criminal Damage Act (1971) is either intention or recklessness. The jury convicted accordingly, and the defendant appealed.

The conviction was quashed and it was held that if the drug “is merely soporific or sedative” then “the taking of it, even in some excessive quantity, cannot in the ordinary way raise a conclusive presumption against the admission of proof of intoxication for the purpose of disproving mens rea in ordinary crimes, such as would be the case with alcoholic intoxication or incapacity or automatism resulting from the self-administration of dangerous drugs”.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

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