With regards to specific intent crimes for example murder, self-intoxication is a defense or more rightly a mitigating factor, but one the court will allow only sparingly i.e. the court, or the jury will look into all the evidence that is available to them as per s.8 of the Criminal Justice Act (1967) and decide if the defense should be made available to the defendant or if the court will accept the defendant’s plea and the reluctance of the court is primarily because of public interest or public policy reasons in that an innocent member of the public should be protected from the drunken mistake of another especially given the fact that the defendant got drunk on his own accord.
It might be different if the defendant had been forced to drink or someone had pointed a gun to the defendant’s head and made him drink or if his drink was spiked but unless that was the case, the courts will show some reluctance in allowing the defense.
In R v Stubbs (1989) the defendant who was drunk at the time got into a fight with the victim, and stabbed the victim, causing grievous bodily harm, and was charged under s.18 of the Offences Against Person Act (1861). The mens rea to obtain a s18 conviction is intention to cause grievous bodily harm but because the defendant at the time lacked the mens rea or the intention to cause grievous bodily harm, the court accepted a section 20 plea (which is a lesser offence) the mens rea for which is either intention or recklessness.
The lack of the required mens rea caused by drunkenness would be a defense to a section 18 charge, but it has to be extreme, i.e. the defendant was so intoxicated that he had lost all ability to reason.
Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward