~ 3 ~
injured. The defendant was indicted under sections 1(1) and 1(2) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971
and pled guilty to the charge pursuant to section 1(1)
intending to, or being reckless as to whether, the property of another would be destroyed or damaged
and not guilty to the charge pursuant to section 1(2)
destroying or damaging the property of another and of intending, or being reckless as to whether, the life of others would be thereby endangered. In terms of the latter charge, the defendants plea was based on the fact that he was so intoxicated at the time of the incident that the thought that he might be endangering ot
her people’s lives never crossed his
mind and that it would
be ‚unjust that he should be
punished for a state of mind he did not possess
On the foot of this plea the case was eventually appealed to the House of Lords on the following point of law:
hether evidence of self-induced intoxication can be relevant to the following questions
(a) Whether the defendant intended to endanger the life of another; and (b) Whether the defendant was reckless as to whether the life of another would be endangered within the meaning of s 1(2)(
) of the 1971 act
On this point, which is of general public importance, the House of Lords unanimously held that in terms of (a) drunkenness could be relevant as a defence. The more difficult question which then arises is whether drunkenness is a defence against (b) as this requires a definition of
‘reckless’ a term which
, according to Ashworth,
has been ‚given
several different shades of meaning by the courts over the years
What then is ‘recklessness’? In order to
understand this term it is propitious to examine the history of its usage, a history which begins in effect with the definition of the
. The Malicious Damage Act 1861
speaks of ‚unlawfully or maliciously‛
committing any damage, injury, or spoil to or upon any public or private property.
According to Professor Kenny, as he sets out in his
Outlines on Criminal Law
is taken as requiring ‚recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not (i.e.,
the accused has foreseen that the particular kind of harm might be done and yet has gone on to take the risk of it
interpretation was adopted in
R v. Cunningham
Hereafter ‘the 1971 Act’.
; at p.347.
; at p.344.
Ashworth, A. (2006)
Principles of Criminal Law
; at p.181.
The Malicious Damage Act 1861, section 51; at p.766.
; at p.351 [emphasis added].
 2 QB 396; at p.399.