A more recent version of these Mens Rea Short notes – written by Oxford students – is available here.
The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Criminal Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:
NB: MR does not equate to moral guilt (consider mercy killers / the agent in Yip Chiu-Cheung
) Scale of MR: intention ? recklessness ? negligence. INTENTION
Was Wasthe it the result result a virtually of the D's certain purpose?
result of D's actions and did D realize that the result was a virtually ce No
D has the necessary intention.
D does not have the necessary intention
Starting point (current law): Courts have been clear that in most cases intention should be given its ordinary meaning --- in exceptional cases, the jury may find intention if a result was virtually certain to occur and the defendant realized it was virtually certain to occur. Core meaning of intention: ordinary meaning of the word
? Moloney : M and S (his stepfather) got drunk at a wedding and argued over who could load and fire a gun more quickly. M loaded quicker and S challenged him to shoot. M fired wildly and killed S. M was convicted of murder. Lord Bridge: "The golden rule should be that
... the judge should avoid any elaboration or paraphrase of what is meant by intent ... unless the judge is convinced that, on the facts and having regard to the way the case has been presented to the jury ... some further explanation or elaboration is strictly necessary to avoid misunderstanding."
? Courts have therefore avoided a hard / fast definition --- core meaning is taken as: D intends a consequence of his action if he acts with the aim / purpose of producing that consequence. High standard because need to prove beyond reasonable doubt.
Intention vs foresight:
? The HL has made it clear in a number of cases that foresight of a consequence is not the same as intention, but it is evidence from which a jury may infer intention. In Moloney Bridge said: "foresight of the consequences, as an element bearing on the issue of intention ... belongs, not to the substantive law, but to the law of evidence ... A man is presumed to intend the natural and probably consequences of his acts ... knowledge or foresight is at the best material which entitles or compels a jury to draw the necessary inference as to intention."
? Hancock and Shankland : H+S were striking miners who pushed a concrete block off a road bridge, killing the driver of a taxi carrying a miner to work. They did not think they were pushing the block over the lane carrying the taxi and intended only to frighten / block the road. CA: applied Bridge's dicta in Moloney to find the D's guilty of manslaughter (no intent for murder). Intention vs motive:
??? ?These are quite different. Bridge in Moloney: A man who boards a plane to Manchester, desiring to escape capture in London and indifferent to his destination, still intends go: "By boarding the Manchester plane, the man conclusively demonstrates his intention to go there, because it is a moral certainty that that is where he will arrive." Motive is relevant as evidence of intent. Borderline cases of intent: Woolin test
? ?? ? Test: should only be used in unclear cases. Has two elements for murder: (i) only if death / GBH was a virtually certain consequence of D's actions, and; (ii) D foresaw this was so, can the jury infer intent.
??? ?Woolin : W lost his temper and threw his 3-month-old son onto a hard surface, killing him. Issues was whether W had intention to cause serious harm. HL (Lord Steyn): courts should continue to use the Nedrick  model (test stated above). On this test the proper conviction in Woolin was for manslaughter.
??? ?Issues after Woolin: o If the test is satisfied, must the jury find intention or may they? Mirfield vs Sir John Smith debate. Important, because if Smith is right, and the jury must infer, then intention is legally foresight of virtual certainty.
? Resolved in Matthews & Alleyne : M and A were convicted of murder. V was attacked after leaving a club and thrown off a high bridge into a wide river. J drowned. Evidence that J told M+A he could not swim. Issue was as to Woolin direction (substantive law or rule of evidence). CA: jury may find intent, but don't have to. However, in many cases satisfying the test would make the inference irresistible: o Questions over the first limb: the belief in virtual certainty is not enough, it must actually be a virtual certainty. Can have odd results: e.g. intention can't be proved because unbeknownst to a bomber, a plane has a device allowing it to land even if bomb goes off in hold. So Prof. Allen argues that we should only need to show that D foresaw the result as virtually certain. o Does Woolin only apply to murder? Hasn't been resolved yet --- only considered in murder cases.
?????Difficulties of Woolin test in case law: o Re A (Children) : conjoined twins (Mary and Jodie) will both die unless an operation is performed. If the operation is performed, only M, the weaker, will die. Doctors seek
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