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DPP v Smith [1961] AC 290 House of Lords

A policeman tried to stop the defendant from driving off with stolen goods by jumping on to the bonnet of the car. The defendant drove off at speed and zigzagged in order to get the police office off the car. The defendant argued he did not intend to harm the policeman. The policeman was knocked onto the path of an oncoming car and killed. The defendant was convicted of murder. The trial judge directed the jury as follows:

‘If you are satisfied that ... he must as a reasonable man have contemplated that grievous bodily harm was likely to result to that officer ... and that such harm did happen and the officer died in consequence, then the accused is guilty of capital murder. ... On the other hand, if you are not satisfied that he intended to inflict grievous bodily harm upon the officer - in other words, if you think he could not as a reasonable man have contemplated that grievous bodily harm would result to the officer in consequence of his actions - well, then, the verdict would be guilty of manslaughter.’

The jury convicted of murder and the defendant appealed on the grounds that this was a mis-direction and that a subjective test should apply. The Court of Appeal quashed his conviction for murder and substituted a manslaughter conviction applying a subjective test. The prosecution appealed to the House of Lords who re-instated the murder conviction and held that there was no mis-direction thereby holding an objective test was applicable.
 
Back to lecture outline on mens rea - intention in Criminal Law
 
Back to lecture outline on murder in Criminal Law
 
Back to lecture outline on wounding and GBH in Criminal Law