• In the case of R. v Heard 2007 EWCA Crim 125, it was found that the offence of sexual assault contrary to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 s.3 required the sexual touching to be intentional or deliberate and voluntary intoxication could not be relied upon to negate the necessary intention.

Facts of the Case

  • The appellant appealed against his conviction of sexual assault.
  • Police officers had been called to the appellant’s home where he was found drunk, in an emotional state and had cut himself.
  • He had requested to eb taken to hospital. Whilst waiting for treatment at hospital, he became abusive and began to sing loudly in the waiting area.
  • He was taken outside by the officers.
  • Whilst outside, he begun to dance suggestively to one of the officers (P) and put his hand on his groin.
  • He attempted to re-enter the hospital and became angry when discouraged by P who he then punched in the stomach.
  • The appellant then undid his trousers and took his penis out and rubbed it up and down on P’s thigh.
  • He was arrested and during interviews he stated that although he could not remember anything that occurred, he had accepted that when he was ill or intoxicated, he was prone to being “silly and start stripping”.
  • The judge was asked to rule whether the offence was one to which voluntary drunkenness could afford a defence in the sense that it could prevent him from having the necessary state of mind.
  • The judge ruled that the offence was one of basic intent and it had to be committed deliberately rather than an accidentally considering the use of “intentionally” in s.3(1)(a) of the Act. The drunkenness could not be relied on as a defence.
  • The judge directed the jury that the Crown had to prove that he had touched P deliberately.
  • The appellant submitted that the judge made an error in his ruling since the offence was one of specific intent as reckless touching would not suffice and that the jury ought to have been directed to consider if his voluntary intoxication meant that he did not have the intention to touch P.

Issues in Heard 2007 EWCA Crim 125

  • Was the judge right in his assessment of basic intent compared to specific intent
  • Could it be proved that the appellant had the intention to touch P

Held by Court of Appeal

  • Appeal dismissed

Hughes LJ 

  • It was held that Heard simply intended to touch P.
  • The fact that Heard was drunk did not destroy the intentional character of his touching of P; a drunken intent was still an intent.

“It is necessary to go back to Majewski in order to see the basis for the distinction there upheld between crimes of basic and of specific intent. It is to be found most clearly in the speech of Lord Simon, at pages 478B to 479B. Lord Simon’s analysis had been foreshadowed in his speech in DPP v Morgan [1976] AC 182, 216 (dissenting in the result), which analysis was cited and approved in Majewski by Lord Elwyn−Jones (at 471). It was that crimes of specific intent are those where the offence requires proof of purpose or consequence, which are not confined to, but amongst which are included, those where the purpose goes beyond the actus reus (sometimes referred to as cases of ‘ulterior intent’). Lord Simon put it in this way at 478H: “The best description of “specific intent” in this sense that I know is contained in the judgment of Fauteux J in Reg v George (1960) 128 Can CC 289, 301.” ‘In considering the question of mens rea, a distinction is to be made between (i) intention as applied to acts considered in relation to their purposes and (ii) intention as applied to acts apart from their purposes. A general intent attending the commission of an act is, in some cases, the only intent required to constitute the crime while, in others, there must be, in addition to that general intent, a specific intent attending the purpose for the commission of the act.’ [31]