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R v Savage [1991] 94 Cr App R 193

The mens rea requirements for wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm contrary to Offences Against the Person Act 1861, s 20.

Facts

The defendant was charged with unlawful and malicious wounding contrary to Offences Against the Person Act 1861, s 20. The defendant had thrown a glass of beer over her husband’s former girlfriend. The glass broke and the victim was hurt by it. The defendant contended that she had not intended to throw the glass, just the beer.

Issue

At first instance the defendant was convicted of malicious wounding on the basis that the trial judge had failed to inform the jury that malice under Offences Against the Person Act 1861 was subjective. The Court of Appeal overturned the conviction ((1990) 91 Cr App R 317) but found that an alternative conviction under Offences Against the Person Act 1861, s 47 was possible. The House of Lords was asked to consider the mens rea requirements for the section 20 offence and whether an alternative verdict could be given if the section 20 offence was not made out.

Held

(1) It was held that a verdict of assault occasioning actual bodily harm contrary to Offences Against the person Act 1861, s 47 was a possible alternative to a count alleging wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm under Offences Against the person Act 1861, s 20. (2) A verdict under section 47 simply required proof of an assault and actual bodily harm caused by the assault. There was no separate mens rea element as to the bodily harm. (3) For a charge under section 20 to be made out, the defendant must intend or actually foresee that some physical harm would be caused to the victim. It did not matter how minor that harm might be.


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