The Concept of “Intention” Is Central to Criminal Liability and Therefore It Is Surprisingly That Is Has Not Been Clearly Defined.

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  • Topic: Appeal, Law, House of Lords
  • Pages : 12 (4930 words )
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  • Published : December 30, 2012
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There is no statutory definition of Intention and there is also no agreement in English Law as to the meaning of Intention. Its meaning is to be found in judicial decisions. Unfortunately there has been lack of consistency in the approach of the courts to the issue. The concept of intention and recklessness are distinct with one another. The definition of intention should not overlap with the definition of recklessness. It is generally accepted that it is central and core meaning of intention is aim, objective or purpose. It is generally accepted that a person intentions a consequence if it is his aim or objective. This is also known as direct intention. The issue seems to be what beyond that can be classes as intention: 1) does person intent a result if he knows that is it certain to happen although that is not his aim? 2) Does a person intend a result when he foresees the consequence as a virtual, practical or moral certainty? “There is no scientific measurement or yardstick for gauging a person’s intention. Unfortunately, there is no form of meter which one can fix to an accused person, like an amp-meter or something of that kind, in order to ascertain what intention is, no X-ray machine which will produce a useful picture.” Per Ackner J (as he then was) in Hyam V DPP (1972). Intention (specific intent) has no statutory definition; therefore it is necessary to look at case law. In Mohan(1975) the court gave a definition to ‘intention’ stating that was a decision to bring about, in so far as it lies within the accused power, (the prohibited consequence), no matter whether the accused desired that consequence of his act or not. ‘Thus meaning that a defendant’s motive/ reason for the act are irrelevant but the fact that the defendant decided to bring about the prohibited consequence is. Intent can be divided into two kinds as direct intent and oblique intent. Direct intent refers to a defendant’s aim, purpose or desire as it is where the defendant intends for the specific consequence to occur. For example, if a defendant loads a gun, walks up to the victim and shoots them in the head at point blank, the defendant clearly has direct intent to kill. In the case of Byrne 1960, the defendant was a sadistic psychopath who enjoyed torturing and killing people. He strangled his victim to death then cut up the body. Again there is a direct intent to kill regardless of the defendant’s mental condition. Oblique intent is sometimes referred to as indirect intent; it is much more complex than direct intent. It is where the defendant intends one thing but the consequences of their action/ is another thing. The courts have stated that intention based on foresight of consequences can only be evidence of intention if the accused knew those consequences would definitely happen. Thus it is not sufficient that the defendant merely foresaw a possibility of a particular occurrence. How can a jury be directed to understand how the existence of such foresight is to be ascertained? At one time DPP V Smith (1962) was authority for the view that a person foresaw and intended the natural and probable consequences of his acts. However, this was reserved by Parliament. Section 8 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967, which now deals with how intention or foresight must be proved, provides: A court or jury in determining whether a person has committed an offence, a) shall not be bound in law to infer that he intended or foresee that result by reference to all the evidence drawing such inferences from the evidence as appear proper in the circumstances. Consequently, where foresight needs to be established a person is not to be taken as intending the natural and probable consequences of his act simply because they were natural and probable, although a jury may infer that from looking at all the evidence. The test is therefore subjective and a jury is to decide what the defendant’s intention was from considering all the evidence. DPP v Smith (1961) was the...
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