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R v WOOLLIN

General Principle:


The jury is not entitled to find the necessary intention unless death or serious bodily harm was an obvious conclusion to the defendant’s act.


Name:


R v Woollin [1998] 4 All ER 103, HL


Facts:


A man lost his temper with his three-month-old son and threw the child onto a hard surface, causing head injuries from which the child died. The Defendant was charged with murder and the judge directed the jury, largely in accordance with the Nedrick guidelines, that they might infer the necessary intention if they were satisfied that the Defendant realised there was "a substantial risk" of serious injury.


Ratio:


The House of Lords in R v Woollin said this would enlarge the scope of murder and blur the distinction between that and manslaughter. The jury, said Lord Steyn, should be directed that they are not entitled to find the necessary intention unless they feel sure that death or serious bodily harm was a virtual certainty - barring some unforeseen intervention - as a result of the defendant's actions, and that the defendant realised such was the case, but should be reminded that the decision is one for them on a consideration of all the evidence.


Application:


The House of Lords accepted the appeal of the Defendant. The Courts, by leaving the direction on oblique intention in the negative and thus giving juries some leeway to avoid convicting, have allowed juries to make moral judgments in appropriate circumstances.



R v Woollin

Analysis:


Following an argument, Trevor stabs Amanda, leaving her unconscious and seriously injured in a dangerous area of the city, Los Santos. Trevor knows that Amanda will die of her wounds if left untreated. Before that occurs, however, Franklin comes upon Amanda, who is a member of a rival gang. Franklin deliberately shoots Amanda dead. Trevor both foresaw and intended that Franklin would find and kill Amanda. Trevor foresaw and intended that Franklin would find and kill Amanda. This will be intention through virtual certainty. This test was adopted by the House of Lords in R v Woollin, where the current model direction to be given to the jury was said to be as follows:


"Where the charge is murder and in the rare cases where the simple direction is not enough, the jury should be directed that they are not entitled to find the necessary intention unless they feel sure that the death or serious bodily harm was a virtual certainty (barring some unforeseen event) as a result of the defendant's action and that the defendant appreciated that such was the case. The decision is one for the jury to be reached upon consideration of all the evidence." Per Lord Steyn.



 R v Woollin


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