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R v Hardie [1985] 1 WLR 64 Court of Appeal

The defendant set light to a wardrobe after consuming some out of date valium tablets which had been prescribed to his partner. He took the valium tablets as he was feeling stressed as his partner had asked him to leave their home. He was charged with arson at his trial he stated that he remembered nothing of starting the fire due to his intoxicated state but accepted that he must have started it as he was the only one in the room when it started. The trial judge directed the jury that as the defendant had voluntarily consumed the valium, his intoxication could be no defence to the crime committed. The defendant appealed.


The appeal was allowed

Parker LJ:

"In the present instance the defence was that the Valium was taken for the purpose of calming the nerves only, that it was old stock and that the Appellant was told it would do him no harm. There was no evidence that it was known to the Appellant or even generally known that the taking of Valium in the quantity taken would be liable to render a person aggressive or incapable of appreciating risks to others or have other side effects such that its self-administration would itself have an element of recklessness. It is true that Valium is a drug and it is true that it was taken deliberately and not taken on medical prescription, but the drug is, in our view, wholly different in kind from drugs which are liable to cause unpredictability or aggressiveness. It may well be that the taking of a sedative or soporific drug will, in certain circumstances, be no answer, for example in a case of reckless driving, but if the effect of a drug is merely soporific or sedative the taking of it, even in some excessive quantity, cannot in the ordinary way raise a conclusive presumption against the admission of proof of intoxication for the purpose of disproving mens rea in ordinary crimes, such as would be the case with alcoholic intoxication or incapacity or automatism resulting from the self-administration of dangerous drugs."
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