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CASES ON INTOXICATION
1. THE SPECIFIC INTENT/BASIC INTENT DICHOTOMY
DPP v Majewski  AC 142.
The defendant had been convicted of various counts alleging actual bodily
harm, and assaults upon police officers. The offences had occurred after the
defendant had consumed large quantities of alcohol and drugs. The trial judge
had directed the jury that self-induced intoxication was not available as a
defence to these basic intent crimes. The defendant was convicted and appealed
unsuccessfully to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.
Lord Elwyn-Jones LC referred to the case of Beard in which Lord Birkenhead LC
concluded that the cases he had considered establish that drunkenness can be a
defence where the accused was at the time of the offence so drunk as to be
incapable of forming the specific intent necessary for such crimes. Lord Elwyn-Jones
LC then said that before and since Beard’s case, judges had taken the view that
self-induced intoxication, however gross and even if it produced a condition
akin to automatism, cannot excuse crimes of basic intent. With crimes of basic
intent, as his Lordship explained, the “fault” element is supplied by
the defendant’s recklessness in becoming intoxicated, this recklessness being
substituted for the mens rea that the prosecution would otherwise have to prove.
2. INTOXICATION BY DRUGS
R v Lipman  1 QB 152.
The defendant, having voluntarily consumed LSD, had the illusion of
descending to the centre of the earth and being attacked by snakes. In his
attempt to fight off these reptiles he struck the victim (also a drug addict on
an LSD “trip”) two blows on the head causing injuries to her brain and
crammed some eight inches of bedsheet into her mouth causing her to die of
asphyxia. He claimed to have had no knowledge of what he was doing and no
intention to harm her. His defence of intoxication was rejected at his trial and
he was convicted of unlawful act manslaughter. His appeal to the Court of Appeal
was dismissed. Widgery LJ said:
“For the purposes of criminal responsibility we see no reason to
distinguish between the effect of drugs voluntarily taken and drunkenness
5. SOPORIFIC EFFECT
R v Hardie  1 WLR 64.
The defendant had voluntarily consumed up to seven old valium tablets (a
non-controlled drug having a sedative effect) for the purpose of calming his
nerves. Whilst under the influence of the drug he had started a fire in the flat
in which he had been living, but claimed to have been unable to remember
anything after taking the tablets. The defendant was convicted of causing
criminal damage being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, following
the trial judge’s direction to the jury that self-induced intoxication was not
available by way of defence to a basic intent crime. The defendant appealed.
The conviction was quashed on appeal on the grounds that he could not be
expected to anticipate that tranquillisers would have that effect upon him. The
Court of Appeal held that the trial judge should have distinguished valium, a
sedative, from other types of drugs, such as alcohol, which were widely known to
have socially unacceptable side effects. Whilst the voluntary consumption of
dangerous drugs might be conclusive proof of recklessness, no such presumption
was justified in the case of non-dangerous drugs. The jury should have been
directed to consider whether the defendant had been reckless in consuming the
valium, in the sense that he had been aware of the risks associated with its
consumption, although not necessarily aware of the risk that he would actually
commit aggravated criminal damage.
6. “DUTCH COURAGE” INTOXICATION
A-G for N. Ireland v Gallagher  AC 349.
The defendant decided to kill his wife. He bought a knife and a bottle of
whisky which he drank to give himself “Dutch Courage”. Then he killed
her with the knife. He subsequently claimed that he was so drunk that he did not
know what he was doing, or possibly even that the drink had brought on a latent
psychopathic state so that he was insane at the time of the killing. The House
of Lords held that intoxication could not be a defence in either case as the
intent had been clearly formed, albeit before the killing took place. Lord
“If a man, whilst sane and sober, forms an intention to kill and makes
preparation for it, knowing it is a wrong thing to do, and then gets himself
drunk so as to give himself Dutch courage to do the killing, and whilst drunk
carries out his intention, he cannot rely on his self-induced drunkenness as a
defence to a charge of murder, not even as reducing it to manslaughter. He
cannot say that he got himself into such a stupid state that he was incapable of
an intent to kill. So also when he is a psychopath, he cannot by drinking rely
on his self-induced defect of reason as a defence of insanity. The wickedness of
his mind before he got drunk is enough to condemn him, coupled with the act
which he intended to do and did do.”
7. INVOLUNTARY INTOXICATION
R v Allen  Crim LR 698.
The defendant had drunk wine not knowing that it was extremely strong
home-made wine. He then committed sexual offences, but claimed that he was so
drunk that he did not know what he was doing. The Court of Appeal held that this
did not amount to involuntary intoxication. He was thus treated as if he were
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