R v Matthews and Alleyne [2003] EWCA Crim 192

Key point

  • The test in R v Woollin [1999] 1 AC 82 is a rule of evidence – this means that appreciation of virtual certainty of death or serious harm does not necessary amount to intention for murder in law


  • Ds threw the victim into a river, who drowned and died
  • Ds argued although they knew the victim could not swim, they did not intend for the victim to die
  • The judge gave the direction to the jury that it must find Ds guilty of murder if they found that they had foresight that the victim was ‘virtually certain’ to die or suffer serious harm

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • Appeal dismissed; although there was a misdirection by the judge, the conviction was safe

 Rix LJ

  • The judge had mistakenly treated the test from Nedrick and Woollin as a substantive rule of law when it is only a rule of evidence
  • The ‘approved direction’ in Nedrick and Woollin was that the jury was entitled to find intention for murder based on their appreciation that death was ‘virtually certain’, not that they must find intention