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R v Cunningham [1981]

Facts

  • The defendant repeatedly hit the victim with a chair in a pub
  • The victim died as a result
  • The defendant did not intent to kill the victim

Issue

  • Could the defendant be convicted of murder?

Decision

  • Yes

Reasoning

  • The mens rea of murder can be satisfied either by an intent to cause death or an intent to cause grievous bodily harm
  • Even Lord Edmund-Davies speech, who dissented on the facts, said:

    “[T]he outcome of intentionally inflicting serious harm can be so unpredictable that anyone prepared to act so wickedly has little cause for complaint if, where death results, he is convicted and punished as severely as one who intends to kill.”

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