Elliot v C (A Minor) [1983] 2 All ER 1005

Key point

  • Laid down an objective test for recklessness – note that this was later rejected in R v G and R


  • A 14-year-old schoolgirl of low intelligence, tired and hungry, spilt some inflammable spirit and dropped a lighted match on wooden floor of garden shed
  • D was charged under Criminal Damage Act s1(1) for reckless arson
  • The High Court held that D was not guilty as she had no knowledge of the risk of her actions and even if she had thought about it, the risk would not have been obvious to her

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • D’s conviction was upheld as D had been objectively reckless

 Glidewell LJ

  • The test for recklessness laid down in R v Caldwell refers to whether the risk created by the defendant would be obvious to a ‘reasonably prudent man’ rather than the particular defendant


  • The injustice of the result brought Caldwell recklessness into disrepute
  • The objective approach meant that the particular characteristics and circumstances of the defendant are irrelevant – in this case D’s young age and mental handicap was not taken into account
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