How can the courts prove a person's intention to commit a crime? 

Inferring Intention

S8 Criminal Justice Act 1967:
“A court or Jury, in determining whether a person has committed an offence… 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 Distinction between a person acting with intention and acting recklessly

  • If a person acts with the intention to commit a crime they do so with the choice to bring about a result.
  • For example if a person sets out with a weapon determined to physically injure their neighbour they would have the intention to being about the hurt of their neighbour.
  • Whereas with recklessness, if a person acts recklessly they have a choice to take an unjustified risk that the result may occur.
  • For example if a person sets fire to a pile of newspapers with the only intention of burning the newspaper however the newspapers where next to a wheelie bin, the person would be acting recklessly as there is an unjustified risk that the wheelie bin may catch on fire.  

The distinction between Direct Intention and Oblique Intention

  • Once it can be established that a person has the intention to commit a crime the courts then need to figure out whether their intention is direct or oblique. Depending on what type of intention a defendant may have will depend on the sentence attached to the offence. 
  • Direct intention occurs where you act in order to bring about a result for its own sake or a person acts in order to bring about a result as a means to something else.
  • Oblique intention is where a person acts with the intention that the circumstances of their actions are virtually certain. 

Direct Intention

  • When trying to prove direct intention the prosecution will look at the aim and the purpose of the defendants intention.
  • There has been a long established test that helps the legal system establish direct intention, this is called Duff’s rule of thumb.
Duffs Rule of Thumb

This test consists of the success/ failure reasoning. Basically the prosecution will ask if a person would regard themselves as having failed if the result that did occur had not happened.

Oblique intention

  • The jury will be directed to find someone as having oblique intention if they believe that the defendant knew the result was a virtual certainty and chose to act in the way they did regardless.