Law Report: Involuntary intoxication rejected: Regina v Kingston - House of Lords (Lord Keith of Kinkel, Lord Goff of Chieveley, Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Mustill and Lord Slynn of Hadley), 21 July 1994.

A defendant who acted in a prohibited way with the necessary mental intent required for the offence cannot rely on the defence of involuntary intoxication to negative the mental element.

The House of Lords unanimously allowed the prosecutor's appeal against the Court of Appeal's decision ((1994) QB 81) to quash the defendant's conviction of indecent assault and remitted the case to the Court of Appeal to consider other grounds of appeal.

The defendant was a homosexual with paedophiliac predilections. His co-defendant, Penn, arranged to blackmail the defendant by inviting a boy to his room, drugging the boy unconscious and then photographing and recording the defendant and co-defendant indulging in sexual acts with the boy. The defendant's defence was that Penn had secretly administered drugs on the defendant so that he suffered effects which annulled the criminal liability which his acts would otherwise have involved.

The trial judge directed the jurors that if they thought the defendant was so affected by drugs that he did not intend or might not have intended to commit an indecent assault, then he must be acquitted, but if they were sure that despite the effect of any drugs, he intended to commit the offence, the case was proved because a drugged intent was still an intent.

The defendant's appeal against conviction was allowed by the Court of Appeal which decided that if the necessary intent was proved, the defendant had open to him a defence of involuntary intoxication.

Vivian Robinson QC and Brian Lett (CPS) for the prosecutor; Charles S Taylor and Colin Morgan (Edward Harte & Co) for the defendant.

LORD MUSTILL said that there was an instinctive attraction in the proposition that a retributory system of justice should not visit penal consequences on acts which were the ultimate consequence of an event outside the volition of the actor, and that it was not sufficient to acknowledge the special circumstances by mitigating the penalty.

The defendant's case was that in ordinary circumstances his paedophiliac tendencies would have been kept under control, even in the presence of the sleeping or unconscious boy, and the ingestion of the drug brought about a temporary change in the mentality or personality of the defendant which lowered his ability to resist temptation so far that his desires overrode his ability to control them. This was a case of disinhibition. The drug was not alleged to have created the desire but enabled it to be released.

The defendant might be free from criminal responsibility on three grounds: his immunity flowed from general principles of the criminal law; his immunity was already established by a solid line of authority; or the court should, when faced with a new problem, acknowledge the justice of the case and boldly create a new common law defence.

The Court of Appeal's decision was founded on the principle that the law recognised that, exceptionally, an accused might be entitled to be acquitted if there was a possibility that although his act was intentional, the intent arose out of circumstances for which he bore no blame. The same proposition was implicit in the assumption by the Court of Appeal that if blame was absent the necessary mens rea must also be absent.

No such principle existed. To assume that contemporary moral judgments affected the criminality of the act, as distinct from the punishment appropriate, was to be misled by the expression 'mens rea', which referred to the criminality of the act in which the mind was engaged, not to its moral character. The argument which treated the absence of moral fault on the part of the defendant as sufficient in itself to negative the necessary mental element of the offence was rejected.

There was no material to find grounds for holding that involuntary intoxication was already established by common law as a defence. To recognise a new defence of this type would be a bold step. The defence appeared to run into difficulties at every turn. It would be necessary to reconcile a defence of irresistible impulse derived from a combination of innate drives and external disinhibition with the rule that irresistible impulse of a solely internal origin, not necessarily any more the fault of the offender, did not excuse.

On the practical side there were serious problems. Witnesses would have to give a picture of the defendant's personality and susceptibilities. Pharmacists would be required to describe the potentially disinhibiting effect of a range of drugs. More significant would be the opportunities for a spurious defence. The interests of justice did not require a new doctrine. Justice made no demands, for the interplay between the wrong done to the victim, the individual characteristics and frailties of the defendants, and the pharmacological effects of whatever drugs might be potentially involved could be far better recognised by a tailored choice from the continuum of sentences available to the judge than by the application of a single yeah-or-nay jury decision.

The trial judge's direction was correct. Certain grounds of appeal were not dealt with in the Court of Appeal and they should be remitted for consideration.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup