Oblique intent

The concept of oblique intent is sometimes referred to as foresight of consequences.

This is known as the concept of oblique intent or foresight of consequences.  This question arises on rare occasions when the jury may need assistance as to whether the defendant’s actions amount to intention. 

The concept of oblique intent has developed through a series of cases where the question of intention arose.  It is a matter of precedent as each decision was intended to be helpful to others to follow.

The concept has developed on a case by case basis, each case adding to or refining the previous decision, in effect a ‘building block’ approach.  The cases are Hyam v DPP (BAILII: [1974] UKHL 2, R v Moloney [1984] , R v Hancock and Shankland [1985] , Nedrick, R. v [1986] , Walker and Hughes 1990, Woollin, R v. [1998], and finally Matthews and Alleyne 2003.

With the case of Woollin 1998 the opportunity for the House of Lords to become involved arose again.  The defendant was found to have shaken his young baby and then thrown him across the room in the direction of his pram. On this occasion the House of Lords decided that the jury may only find intention if they are satisfied that serious bodily harm was a virtual certainty following the accused’s act and that the accused appreciated that fact.  The word ‘find’ was preferred by Lord Steyne in preference to the word ‘infer’.  This ruling was based on what the court considered to be the correct part of the Court of Appeal’s ruling as to the Law in Nedrick.

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