‘The behaviour. This contention regards when such behaviour

‘The common law recognises a distinction between directintent and oblique intent.’ Through the apprehension of common law, there is anappreciation of a distinction between direct and oblique intent. The concept ofIntention rises when weconsider the criminal liability of an individual; in which criminal liabilityis the responsibility that is given for any illegal behaviour. This contention regards when such behaviour causes harm or damage to someoneor something. When considering such liability, there should be a considerationof both the actus Reus and the mens rea. The actus Reus is a Latin phrase thatcan be defined literally as the ‘guilty act’. However, the actus Reus is moreaptly defined as ‘the forbidden conduct’.

1The second element of criminal liability is known as the mens rea, this isdefined as the ‘guilty mind’. Intention is regarded to be the most seriousstandard of mens rea2  followed by recklessness, gross negligence,negligence and strict liability. In English law, Section 8 of Criminal JusticeAct 1967 provides for the frame in which the ‘mens rea’ is assessed. The actregards that there is a requirement of proof of criminal intent. A court orjury, when determining whether a person has committed an offence, (a) shall notbe bound in law to infer that he intended or foresaw a result of his actions byreason only of its being a natural and probable consequence of those actions;but (b) shall decide whether he did intend or foresee that result by referenceto all the evidence, drawing such inferences from the evidence as appear properin the circumstances.3Intention can be satisfied through two different definitions: direct intentionand oblique intention.

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Although direct and oblique intention are simplyalternative definitions of the mens rea term intention, what is the distinctionbetween them?When considering the definition of intent, a narrowdefinition of intention, known as direct intent, can be adopted. Directintention covers the typical situation where the consequences of a person’sactions reflect what was desired when such course of action was carried out. Thereare several cases that convey a demonstration of direct intent in its regard tocommon law, such as; R v Steane, Chandler v DPP, R v Mohan. The leading casethat defines direct intention is Moloney.4In the case of Moloney, the facts were that D had shot his stepfather whilstplaying a drunken contest that involved the quick-drawing of loaded shotguns. Inthe case of R v Steane5,the appellant, had been convicted of an offence under the Defence Regulations. Hehad been accused of carrying out acts that likely to assist the enemy withintent to assist the enemy.

However, the appellant argued that he had nointention of assisting the enemy saying the actions carried out were purelydone for the motivation and desire preventing his wife and children from beingsent to a German concentration camp. The court held that there was clearly no intentto assist the enemy here; the appellant felt forced and threatened into carryingout such actions. Ultimately, the crime had not been proven, thus the defendantwas acquitted. The seconds definition is considered when the scope ofintent is widened is known as oblique or indirect intent. Oblique intent regardsa situation where the consequence is foreseen by the defendant and considered asvirtually certain although it is not desired. However, the defendant goes aheadwith carrying out such act anyway. Thus, when considering oblique intent, it isimportant to understand ‘virtual certainty’. This concept regards the case ofNedrick6in which D poured paraffin through the letterbox of X’s house, proceeding toset the house alight killing a child due to causing a house fire.

Lord Lane CJquashed the original conviction and clarified that “the jury should bedirected that they are not entitled to infer the necessary intention, unlessthey feel sure that death or serious bodily harm was a virtual certainty becauseof the defendant’s actions and that the defendant appreciated that such was thecase.” The current law regarding oblique intent follows the leading case ofWoollin.7In such case, D killed his child by throwing him against a hard surface.However, D did not have the desire to kill the child.

Regarding the case of R v Woollin8,the matter of intention has been discussed by common Law. Within such case, thefacts raised were that the appellant had thrown his 3-month-old baby son on toa hard surface. This ultimately led to the infant suffering a fractured skull leadingto fatality. The appellant had been charged with murder of the infant, althoughhe did not desire to kill the child. As the appellant was charged with murder,it was required that he had the mens rea of intention to kill or cause seriousbodily harm. The crown court held that the appellant was guilty of murder, thisconviction was upheld on appeal in the Court of Appeal.

However, when the casewas taken to The House of Lords, it was held that the murder conviction was tobe substituted with manslaughter conviction. This holding was because there hadbeen a material misdirection which expanded the mens rea of murder andtherefore a murder conviction would be insecure. In Woollin, the House of Lordsattempted to clarify the law of indirect intent by holding that if aconsequence is a virtually certain result of an act and such individual foresawsuch act to create the given result; it is possible that a jury may find thatsuch action was to be intended, irrespective of whether it was in fact theindividuals purpose to cause such consequence. The House of Lords considered theNedrick guidelines, however they modified them slightly. The judge, using suchcase law, directed the jury that it can be argued that the defendant hadintended the death of the victim.

It could be argued this way if it was viewed thata substantial risk of death was most likely appreciated by the defendant. Therefore,the appropriate direction to be upheld in testing oblique intent regards whenthe conviction is murder, and in the rare cases where the simple direction isnot enough, the jury should be directed that they are not entitled to infer thenecessary intention. This is unless they feel sure that death or serious bodilyharm was a virtual certainty (barring some unforeseen intervention) because ofthe defendant’s actions and that the defendant appreciated that such was thecase.9Overall, there is a clear distinction between direct intentand oblique intent. Due to much of cases being straight forward, its often theyinvolve direct intent.

Direct intent is where the defendant embarks on a courseof conduct to bring about a result which in fact occurs. However, it’s clearthat oblique intent is more complex than direct intent. Oblique intent existswhere the defendant embarks on a course of conduct to bring about a desiredresult, knowing that the consequence of his actions will also bring aboutanother result.

Thus, due to the simplicity of direct intent it does not requirea refined test like oblique intent.1 ThanCD and Heaton R, Criminal law (4th edn Oxford University Press 2013)2 ChildJ, Ormerod DC and Smith JC, Smith & Hogan’s essentials of criminal law(Oxford University Press 2015)3 CriminalJustice Act 1967, Chapter 80, Section 841985 AC 9055 Rv Steane 1947 1 AII ER 813 Court of Criminal Appeal6Nedrick 1986 1 WLR 102571999 AC 828 Rv Woollin 1998 1 WLR9 LordLane, C.J., Nedrick 1986 1 W.

L.R. 1025.


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