Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech AHA [1986] AC 112, [1986] Crim. L.R. 113

Key point

  • Oblique intention (foresight of a consequence of one’s actions) does not necessarily render a defendant liable for a crime


  • Doctors gave out contraceptives and advice to girls below 16
  • They were alleged to contravene s28 Sexual Offences Act 1956: “(1) It is an offence for a person to cause or encourage the prostitution of, or the commission of unlawful sexual intercourse with, or of an indecent assault on, a girl under the age of sixteen for whom he is responsible.”

Held (House of Lords)

  • Doctors were not guilty

Lord Fraser of Tullyberton

  • Whether doctors are guilty depends on whether their intent is to encourage unlawful sexual activity or for the health of the patient
  • Here the intent was to benefit the health of the patient


  • The dicta is now codified in s73 Sexual Offences Act 2006, which creates an exception to the offences in such cases where the direction intention/purpose is to protect the sexual health of the child rather