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Criminal Law Defences Intoxication Notes

BCL Law Notes > Criminal Law: Offences and Defences Notes

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Unclear whether or not it a defence in itself and there's limited irihs authority on the issue
The main relevance is for the purpose of showing that the A lacked the mens rea.
The prosecution has to prove the mens rea beyond reasonable doibt and the presence of intoxication renders this difficult.
The intoxication must be very extreme before it can become an issue
A glass that potentially allows intoxication to adduce some crimes to lesser crimes, because what the courts came up with a long time ago, was an artificial distinction:
- You can divide all crimes into ones of basic intent and specific intent.
This has never been considered or taken up by parliament
Judicial creation

Crime of specific intent:The actus reus, along with some specific mental state/ mens rea.
For example, murder - intent to kill or cause serious injury
Theft is where someone takes something with the intent of permanently depriving the victim of it.

Approach 1 - England (and then Ireland)

Majewski 1977evidence of self-induced intoxication negating the mental element is a defence to a crime of specific intent but not to a crime of basic intent.

Saying its not in itself a defence, but there may be crimes where intoxication makes them lesser of a crime.
Approach 2 - AUS

O'Connor 1979can be relevant to any crime not so much as a defence in itself but may relate to the proving of the mental element by the prosecution.


we have accepted the English approach (majewski)
very little case law

McBride 1996
Man drinks bottle of poitin - wakes up in the middle of the night and kills an 18th month old child.Intoxication not a defence
Manslaughter due to the fact it is hard to prove Mens Rea.

So in reality, intoxication did act to reduce his conviction.

Murphy unrep 2003

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