R v Steane [1947] KB 997, (1948) 32 Cr. App. R. 61

Key point

  • One does not necessarily intend the natural consequences of his deliberate act, in other words, oblique intention does not necessarily equate intention in law

Facts

  • Steane was an actor living in Germany leading up to WW2
  • He was arrested and forced to make broadcasts on Germany’s behalf by Joseph Goebbels
  • He was convicted of ‘doing acts likely to assist the enemy with intent to assist the enemy’ by a lower court

Held (Court of Criminal Appeal)

  • The conviction was overturned
  • There was no intent to assist the enemy

Goddard CJ

  • Mens rea can be found on the basis that the defendant intends the natural consequence of his actions
  • However, if on the totality of the evidence there is room for more than one view as to the intent of the prisoner, the prosecution has to take the burden of proof for intention

Commentary

  • As stated in Clarkson & Keating on Criminal Law, there are two forms of intention: direct intention and oblique intention
  • Direct intention is where the consequence is the aim or objective of the actor
  • Oblique intention is where the consequence is foreseen as a certainty by the actor, but not necessarily his aim or objective
  • This case highlights that presence of oblique intention does not necessarily equate intention in law
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