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Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018

R v Parmenter [1991] 94 Cr App R 193

In considering the mens rea for wounding or grievous bodily harm under s. 20, should the intention to cause harm be subjectively or objectively evaluated.


The defendant was prosecuted under four counts of grievous bodily harm for injuries inflicted upon his infant son, including bruises, broken bones, and abrasions to his limbs. The injuries had resulted from the rough way the defendant had handled his child, but being unused to dealing with children, the defendant had been unaware that such behaviour may cause injury. At first instance, the judge directed the jury to convict under s. 20 if they believed the defendant ought have objectively been aware that his behaviour may cause any degree of harm. The defendant appealed, asserting a finding of mens rea for s. 20 required that the defendant have some level of foresight or appreciation for the risk of injury, which he did not.


In determining whether an individual had the necessary mens rea for a s. 20 charge, namely whether they could have reasonably foreseen that their behaviour might cause any degree of harm (regardless of extent), should the question be considered from an exclusively objective perspective, or is it necessary for the defendant to have been able to subjectively foresee this. Moreover, is the nature and degree of the harm foreseen relevant to the question of whether the defendant had fully subjectively appreciated the risk.


The Court found that consideration of the defendant’s subjective perspective must be had and thus in this case the defendant’s convictions of GBH under s. 20 were lessened to counts of actual bodily harm under s. 47. However, it is only necessary that any degree of harm be foreseen.

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