R v Mowatt

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R v Mowatt [1968] 1 QB 421

Does a charge under s. 18 require that intent or reckless to the injuries caused be proven.

Facts

The defendant and a friend were out late at night, and came across the victim, at which point the defendant knocked the victim unconscious whilst the defendant’s friend proceeded to steal money from the victim. The victim then chased the friend but could not find him and so returned to the defendant, and insisted that he inform of the friend’s whereabouts. The defendant claimed to have felt endangered by the victim’s aggressive demeanour and so punched the victim, and proceeded to violently attack him. He was later charged with malicious wounding under s. 18 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

Issues

Whilst a jury has the option of returning a guilty verdict for the lesser charge of s. 20 when contemplating a charge under s. 18, did a judge err in failing to emphasise the distinction of malicious intent between the two crimes.

Held

The Court deemed it irrelevant that the first instance judge had not explicitly elaborated on the word ‘malicious’ as the defendant’s actions could be taken as indicative of his intent to intentionally cause serious harm. As Diplock LJ commented:

‘It is quite unnecessary that the accused should have foreseen that his unlawful act might cause physical harm of the gravity described in the Section, i.e. a wound or serious physical injury. It is enough that he should have foreseen that some physical harm to some person, albeit of a minor character, might result.’ [(426)]

Subsequently the defendant was deemed guilty of an offence of wounding under s. 18.

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