Malice aforethought

The mens rea for the offence of murder is ‘malice aforethought’.

The mens rea for the offence of murder ismalice aforethought’.  This is relatively straightforward but can be misleading.  The word ‘malice’ may suggest to some that the prosecution needs to establish some ulterior motive or reason for the killing but this is not the case.  It simply means the intention to kill or cause really serious harm.

It might be surprising to learn that an individual need not have intended to cause the death of the victim but he or she may still be convicted of murder but this has been a long standing part of our law.  In Cunningham 1982, the House of Lords was unanimous in its opinion that the intention to cause grievous bodily harm constitutes enough blameworthiness to amount to malice aforethought.

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