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R v Moloney [1985] AC 905 House of Lords

The defendant shot his step father killing him. Evidence was produced that the pair had a good relationship. They had been celebrating the defendant's grandparents’ ruby wedding anniversary and had consumed a quantity of alcohol. The rest of the family had retired to bed and the two stayed up drinking. The defendant told his step father that he wanted to leave the army. The step father was not happy at the news and berated the defendant. He told him he could load, draw and shoot a gun quicker than him and told him to get the guns. The defendant returned with two guns and took the challenge. The defendant was first to load and draw and the step father said, "I don't think you have got the guts but if you have pull the trigger". The defendant pulled the trigger but in his drunken state he did not believe the gun was aimed at the step father. The trial judge directed on oblique intent and the jury convicted. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and the defendant appealed to the House of Lords.


Held:

The defendant's conviction for murder was substituted for manslaughter. It was not a case of oblique intent and the judge should not have issued a direction relating to further expansion of intention.

Lord Bridge:

"The golden rule should be that, when directing a jury on the mental element necessary in a crime of specific intent, the judge should avoid any elaboration or paraphrase of what is meant by intent, and leave it to the jury's good sense to decide whether the accused acted with the necessary intent, unless the judge is convinced that, on the facts and having regard to the way the case has been presented to the jury in evidence and argument, some further explanation or elaboration is strictly necessary to avoid misunderstanding."


Lord Bridge also gave guidance on the approach for the test on oblique intent:

"In the rare cases in which it is necessary to direct a jury by reference to foresight of consequences, I do not believe it is necessary for the judge to do more than invite the jury to consider two questions. First, was death or really serious injury in a murder case (or whatever relevant consequence must be proved to have been intended in any other case) a natural consequence of the defendant's voluntary act? Secondly, did the defendant foresee that consequence as being a natural consequence of his act? The jury should then be told that if they answer yes to both questions it is a proper inference for them to draw that he intended that consequence."
 
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