DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTION V. BEARD
Appellants: Director of public prosecutor
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.
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.The accused raped a girl aged thirteen whilst he was drunk. He placed his hand over her mouth to stop her screaming, but without any intention of injuring her. He caused her death by suffocation, and was convicted of murder. It was argued on his behalf that the trial judge had misdirected the jury by not telling the jury that if they were of opinion that the violent act which was the immediate cause of death was not intentional, but only accidental, they should return a verdict of manslaughter.
Held: The appeal failed.
Lord Birkenhead LC said:
`the prisoner killed the child by an act of violence done in the course or in the furtherance of the crime of rape, a felony involving violence. The Court [of Criminal Appeal] held that by the law of England such an act was murder. No attempt has been made in Your Lordships’ House to displace this view of the law and there can be no doubt as to its soundness.’ Accordingly, in their Lordships’ opinion there is no substance in the first argument on behalf of the appellants.’ And
‘ 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 defence. 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.’ And
The decisions cited:
‘establish that 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: per Stephen J. in Doherty’s case.
He concludes the passage:
‘ the law is plain beyond all question that in cases falling short of insanity a condition of drunkenness at the time of committing an offence causing death can only, when it is available at all, have the effect of reducing the crime from murder to manslaughter.’
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.