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   Case summaries      R v O Hare

R v O'Hare [1999] EWCA Crim 771 Court of Appeal

The appellant stabbed a man killing him. At the time of the killing he had drunk a great deal. He was arrested quite soon after the stabbing and was not declared fit for interview until the following afternoon.

The trial judge directed the jury:

"A drunken intention is just as much an intention as a sober intention. A man cannot be heard to say in these courts: 'Well, because I was drunk I behaved in a way I would never have behaved if I had been sober'. That would be just too easy, would it not? Nor indeed can he say: 'I cannot remember what happened therefore I cannot have had any intention'. Lack of memory does not mean no intention.

Drunkenness can only really arise as a defence if a man is so completely drunk that he does not form any intention at all, in other words his brain is just not working. He does not know what he is doing; he is acting as an automaton and you may think, it is a matter for you, on all the evidence in the case that is not the case here.

...in deciding what his intention was of course you take into account the fact, first, this on any view was a spur of the moment stabbing with a weapon that happened to be available. It was a single blow not multiple blows, delivered with moderate force because that was all that was needed, and delivered by a man who was on any view drunk, and you may think, given all those factors it would be very difficult for you to be sure that this defendant had the intention required for murder."

The jury convicted him of murder and he appealed contending the direction did not fully comply with the standard direction given in Sheehan and Moore.


The appeal was dismissed. The summing up dealt sufficiently with the requirements set out in Sheehan and Moore. Whilst it was indeed questionable whether the appellant was capable of forming the necessary intent, there was no mis-direction.

Richards J:

"It would undoubtedly have been better, in our view, for the judge to give a full direction in the terms indicated in Sheehan and Moore , we take the view that his summing-up dealt sufficiently clearly, as well as commendably concisely, with the linked questions of intoxication and the intent required for murder, and that there was no risk of the jury having misunderstood the correct approach towards their assessment of those questions.

We have considered Mr O'Connor's submissions that the scope for the formation of a drunken intent to murder was very limited on the facts of this case. Taking full account of those submissions and of the judge's own comment that it would be very difficult for the jury to be sure that the appellant had the intention required for murder, we are nonetheless satisfied that there was in this case sufficient evidence upon which the jury could properly come to just such a conclusion. For those reasons we do not consider that this conviction was unsafe. The appeal is therefore dismissed."
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