• In the case of Hardie 1985 1 W.L.R 64 1984 3 all er 848 it was found that taking drugs that are not known to impair one’s ability to appreciate risk may produce a defence to crimes of basic intent.

Facts of the Case

  • D took a Valium tablet to calm himself down after being told to leave a flat that he had been living in.
  • The first tablet had little effect, so he took more Valium. The lady who has asked him to leave the flat, of whom the tablets belonged to told D that he could take as many tablets as he likes as they are of no harm to him.
  • D now intoxicated, returned to the flat.
  • The woman who was in the flat with her daughter had discovered that a wardrobe in the bedroom was on fire.
  • The only person who could have started the fire was D.
  • D was charged with arson contrary to section 1(2) and (3) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971.
  • It was alleged that D intended to damage the woman’s property or been reckless as to whether such property would be damaged and intended by the same damage to endanger the life of another or been reckless as to whether that life would be endangered.
  • The judge held that the self-administration of the drug was irrelevant as a defence since its effect could not negative mens rea.
  • D was convicted.

Issues in Hardie 1985 1 W.L.R 64 1984 3 all er 848

  • Was the taking of Valium to eb considered reckless by the court?

Held by Court of Appeal

  • Appeal allowed

Parker LJ

  • The appeal was allowed against conviction due to section 1(2) of the Act of 1971 a defendant’s state of mind had to be considered only when he did the relevant act, and the requirements of the subsection were established if the defendant when doing that act created an obvious risk that property would be destroyed and life endangered with no thought given to the risk.
  • Considering D’s state of mind, the self-administration of a sedative did not automatically raise a presumption that its effect could not negative mens rea in the way that self-induced intoxication by alcohol could.
  • The conviction must be quashed since the jury should have been directed that if they concluded that by taking the drug a defendant could not appreciate the risk to property and persons from his actions, they should consider whether the taking of the drug itself was reckless.
  • “In the present instance the defence was that the Valium was taken for the purpose of calming the nerves only, that it was old stock, and that the appellant was told it would do him no harm. There was no evidence that it was known to the appellant or even generally known that the taking of Valium in the quantity taken would be liable to render a person aggressive or incapable of appreciating risks to others or have other side effects such that its self-administration would itself have an element of recklessness.”
  • “In the present case the jury should not, in our judgment, have been directed to disregard any incapacity which resulted or might have  resulted from the taking of Valium. They should have been directed that if they came to the conclusion that, as a result of the Valium, the appellant was, at the time, unable to appreciate the risks to property and persons from his actions they should then consider whether the taking of the Valium was itself reckless. We are unable to say what would have been the appropriate direction with regard to the elements of recklessness in this case for we have not seen all the relevant D evidence, nor are we able to suggest a model direction, for circumstances will vary infinitely and model directions can sometimes lead to more rather than less confusion. It is sufficient to say that the direction that the effects of Valium were necessarily irrelevant was wrong. “p.69-70