This case concerns Mens Rea and Grevious Bodily Harm (GBH) in murder and homocide chapter of criminal law
Facts Of Dpp v Smith
The defendant was running away in a car after he has stolen some goods. A police men tried to stop him, and while sopping him. He jumped onto the bonnet of his car. The Defendant was trying to get rid of him.
So instead of stopping the car he chose to drive the car in a zigzag manner, as the result the police officer got slipped from the bonnet of the car. And came into the path of an on-coming car. The car ran over the police officer due to which he got killed.
The trial judge directed the jury of the case by saying:
“If you are satisfied that .. he must as a reasonable man have contemplated that grievous bodily harm was likely to result to that officer … and that such harm did happen and the officer died in consequence, then the accused is guilty of capital murder. .. On the other hand, if you are not satisfied that he intended to inflict grievous bodily harm upon the officer – in other words, if you think he could not as a reasonable man have contemplated that grievous bodily harm would result to the officer in consequence of his actions – well, then, the verdict would be guilty of manslaughter.”
Firstly the jury in the trial court convicted the Defendant for murder. But the Defendant argued that there was a mis-direction, As the test for murder is a subjective one not an objective one.
And he did not satidfy the mens rea of the Mureder. That is to to intend to kill or cause grevious bodily harm(GBH).
On this argument Court of Appeal (COA) applied a subjective test of intention. And therefore the charge of murder changed into conviction of manslaughter.
After this the prosecution appealed the case to House of Lords (HOL)
The questio arising from the case is the test to prove murder the test is a subjective or objective one?
House of Lords (HOL) decision
“Whether a reasonable person in the same situation as the defendant, with the defendant’s knowledge of the circumstances, would have foreseen that the victim would suffer death or grievous bodily harm as a probable consequence of the defendant’s conduct. If the answer to this question is yes, then the jury can presume that the defendant possessed the sufficient mens rea for murder.”
As it can be seen if we apply an objective test. We can assume that a reasonable man wouldn’t have done the same. He would have stopped the car, as it was foreseen that by driving a car in a zigzag manner would result in death or Grevious Bodily Harm (GBH) to the police officer.
So it was proved that the Defendant had the intention to kill or cause Grevious Bodily Harm (GBH) to the police officer.
Crticizm on Dpp v Smith
This case was highly crticized as the courts didn’t consider the intention of the defendant , rather they applied the objective test which favoured the decision of House of Lords (HOL).