Smith v Superintendent of Woking Police

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Smith v Superintendent of Woking Police [1983] Crim LR 323

The requisite intent for trespass with the unlawful purpose of assault by causing fear of immediate violence.


The defendant entered the grounds of a private enclosed garden at 11 pm. He stood and looked through the window of Miss M’s bedroom. Miss M saw the defendant staring at her through the window while she was in her night closes, causing her to jump and scream in fright. She proceeded to call the police whilst in her frightened state.


The question of law arose as to whether the defendant could be found guilty of being on private property for “an unlawful purpose” under s4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824. Unless the defendant entered the property with an unlawful purpose, there would not be a criminal conviction but a mere tort. In this case, the unlawful purpose was claimed to be that of assault by causing Miss M to apprehend a fear of immediate violence.


In the present case, the defendant had a clear intention to cause fear, and that intended effect materialised as his actions frightened Miss M, causing her to scream and be terrified of the defendant’s potential actions. It is sufficient to identify the intention of the victim to cause a state of fear and created a situation where the basis of fear instilled in the victim was as to what the defendant would do next. It is not requisite to identify the exact nature of the victim’s fear or whether it was possible for the defendant to carry out the threat of immediate violence. As the defendant entered the private property with the intention of frightening Miss M, and Miss M was indeed frightened, the appeal was dismissed and the conviction upheld.

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