Oblique Intent In Common Law

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What constitutes an intention to commit a criminal offence has been the focus of intense common law debate for more than three decades. Intention can be separated into two sub-sections: ‘direct intent’ and ‘oblique intent.’ The preponderance of murder cases deal with the concept of direct intent, and prove to be uncomplicated as the defendant embarks on a course of conduct to bring about a result which in fact occurs. When considering the concept of oblique intent, it is essential to look at the case of R v Woolin [1998] 1 WLR, alongside previous cases, to better understand how and why the appellate courts have developed the meaning of oblique intent. It is also important to note that in view of the uncertainty inherent in the judicial guidelines …show more content…

The initial case to examine is DPP v Smith, where the House of Lords held that an objective stance was applicable in establishing oblique intent if a person intended the natural and probable consequence of his actions. However, this legal position was overturned and reversed by the passing of the Criminal Justice Act 1967. Through statute, Parliament intended for s8 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 to define the meaning of oblique intent, to include that a court or jury, when, ‘determining whether a person has committed an offence- (a) shall not be bound in law to infer that he intended or foresaw a result of his actions by reason only of its being a natural and probable consequence of those actions;’ but more essentially, ‘(b) shall decide whether he did intend or foresee that result by reference to all the evidence, drawing such inferences from the evidence as appear proper in the circumstances.’ The courts ruled that a subjective test be required when determining oblique intent, answering the first two questions given above, but giving rise to a series of consecutive issues regarding the penultimate question: how probable is it that the adverse effect will occur but more essentially, does it have to be virtually certain to occur or does it have to be mere …show more content…

In Hancock & Shankland, their Lordships stressed “that moral certainty or overwhelming probability was necessary in order to constitute intention.” Indeed, The Maloney direction was criticised as it did not provide any reference to probability. The lack of uniformity of the meaning of intention in the above cases was addressed in Nedrick by Lord Lane CJ when he provided what is considered to be a ‘model direction’ to the meaning of oblique

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