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Does voluntary drunkenness be treated as an excuse for criminal misconduct


Court :

Brief :
Lord Birkenhead LC upheld the appeal filed and held that “Under the law of England as it prevailed until early in the 19th-century voluntary drunkenness was never an excuse for criminal misconduct; and indeed, the classic authorities broadly assert that voluntary drunkenness must be considered rather an aggravation than a defense. This view was in terms based upon the principle that a man who by his own voluntary act debauches and destroys his will power shall be no better situated in regard to criminal acts than a sober man.

Citation :
[1920] AC 479

Bench:

Lord Birkenhead LC

  • Appellants: DPP
  • Respondents: Beard

Issue:

Does voluntary drunkenness be treated as an excuse for criminal misconduct?

Facts:

  • The defendant Arthur Beard raped and killed 12-year-old Ivy Wood in Hyde, Cheshire.
  • While raping her, he got so carried away that he placed his hand on her throat and the other one on her mouth resulting in death due to suffocation.
  • Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) filed a suit against the defendant and was convicted for murder

Appellant's contentions:

  • It was contended that the defendant had raped and murdered the minor girl in the state of intoxication and shall be punishable under the charges of murder.

Respondent's contentions:

  • The respondent contended that he was so drunk that he was unable to comprehend the severity of his act and while convicted for the crime of murder he claimed, was very different and independent from the act of rape.

Judgement:

Lord Birkenhead LC upheld the appeal filed and held that “Under the law of England as it prevailed until early in the 19th century voluntary drunkenness was never an excuse for criminal misconduct; and indeed, the classic authorities broadly assert that voluntary drunkenness must be considered rather an aggravation than a defense. This view was in terms based upon the principle that a man who by his own voluntary act debauches and destroys his will power shall be no better situated in regard to criminal acts than a sober man.

Where a specific intent is an essential element in the offence, evidence of a state of drunkenness rendering the accused incapable of forming such an intent should be taken into consideration in order to determine whether he had in fact formed the intent necessary to constitute the particular crime. If he was so drunk that he was incapable of forming the intent required he could not be convicted of a crime which was committed only if the intent was proved. ... In a charge of murder based upon intention to kill or to do grievous bodily harm, if the jury are satisfied that the accused was, by reason of his drunken condition, incapable of forming the intent to kill or to do grievous bodily harm ... he cannot be convicted of murder. But nevertheless, unlawful homicide has been committed by the accused, and consequently he is guilty of unlawful homicide without malice aforethought, and that is manslaughter”

-Para 3 (DPP v Beard)

 

RITUPORNA GUPTA
on 23 October 2020
Published in Others
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