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R v Heard [2007] 3 WLR 475 Court of Appeal

The police were called to the appellant’s house where he was heavily intoxicated and in a depressive state and had been self harming. The police took him to hospital. He was making a disturbance in the waiting room so the officers took him outside. The appellant then took out his penis and started rubbing it against the officer's thigh. He was charged with sexual assault contrary to S.3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. He did not dispute that the offence occurred but claimed to have no recollection of the events due to his intoxication. The judge ruled that the offence was one of basic intent and such his intoxication could not be relied on in his defence. He was convicted and appealed on the grounds that the judge was in error in ruling that sexual assault was a crime of basic intent since it requires an intention to touch.


Appeal dismissed. The appellant's conviction was upheld. Parliament in passing the Sexual Offences Act 2003 can not be taken to have changed the previous law which denied a defendant from relying on voluntary intoxication as a defence.

Lord Justice Hughes:

"no universally logical test for distinguishing between crimes in which voluntary intoxication can be advanced as a defence and those in which it cannot; there is a large element of policy; categorisation is achieved on an offence by offence basis."
Back to lecture outline on intoxication in criminal liability