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R v Stephenson

[1979] QB 695

Case summary last updated at 15/01/2020 07:19 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case R v Stephenson

Appellant charged with arson and he claimed that the court failed to show the objectivity of the test for recklessness. He had been sleeping in a haystack, was cold and set a fire of twigs inside the haystack. He was held to be a mentally schizophrenic, irrational person and psychiatrist testified that he could easily have set fire to the twigs without realizing the danger. The trial judge’s assessment quoted Parker and did show the subjectivity of the test in talking about “the defendant’s state of mind.” However the mental instability of the defendant meant that he could not appreciate the risk and therefore his appeal was allowed (though surely his initial lie to the police about his cigarette causing the fire rather than his burning twigs proves that he could see how foolish he had been). Surely the rationale behind acquittal is a factual one and the higher courts are usurping the jury’s function. Appeals are supposed to be matters of law, not of fact, except where new evidence comes to light after the trial. 

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