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Irish Cases That Discuss The Meaning Of Intention

2319 words - 9 pages

Irish Cases that Discuss the Meaning of Intention There are only two reported Irish cases which discuss the meaning of
intention, one in the context of attempted murder,and the other in the
context of capital murder. These cases rely on the relevant English
authority pertaining to the definition of 'intention', and so it is
proposed to deal mainly with the latter cases here. Both the Irish and
English cases are set out below in chronological sequence.

Following DPP v Smith, the next major case in this area of the law to
reach the House of Lords was Hyam v DPP. In this case the accused, Mrs
Hyam, in order to frighten away her rival for the affections of a man,
poured petrol through the letterbox of the house where the woman and
her children were sleeping. She then ignited the petrol causing a fire
in which two of the children were killed.

The trial judge directed the jury that the necessary intent would be
established if the jury were satisfied that when the accused set fire
to the house she knew that it was highly probable that this would
cause death or serious bodily harm.

The question which came before the House of Lords was whether proof of
the fact that the accused knew that it was highly probable that the
act in question would result in death or serious bodily harm would
suffice to establish malice aforethought in the crime of murder. The
House of Lords, by a majority, upheld the conviction for murder. All
five judges were of the view that carrying out an act with the
knowledge that it was highly probable that death or grievous bodily
harm would result amounted to malice aforethought. Accordingly, as
this state of mind was held to be a species of malice aforethought, it
was not strictly necessary to decide whether the accused actually
intended to kill or cause grievous bodily harm. Nevertheless, various
views were expressed as to whether foresight of probable consequences
would amount to intention in the strict sense.

Lord Hailsham adopted the definition of intention laid down by Asquith
L.J. in the civil case of Cunliffe v Goodman:

"An 'intention', to my mind, connotes a state of affairs which the
party 'intending'...does more than merely contemplate. It connotes a
state of affairs which, on the contrary, he decides, so far as in him
lies, to bring about, and which, in point of possibility, he has a
reasonable prospect of being able to bring about by his own act of

Lord Hailsham also indicated that foresight of probable consequences
was not the same as intention. Although foresight of probable
consequences (or degrees of likelihood) was an essential factor that
should be...

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