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R v Dadson (1850)

Facts

  • Dadson shot a person attempting to escape with stolen goods, which was by itself unlawful
  • It was not unlawful to shoot a felon in the same circumstances
  • Dadson didn’t know that his victim was a felon

Issue

  • Was Dadson liable of shooting unlawfully with intent to disable; did it matter that Dadson didn’t know that his victim was a felon?

Decision

  • Conviction upheld

Reasoning

  • The offence could not be retrospectively justified; at the time of the offence, Dadson could not invoke the defence that he was shooting a felon at a later date
  • Glanville Williams argued that the fact of shooting a (non-)felon should be considered part of the actus reus of the offence, such that Dadson did not commit the offence; ignoring his state of mind, the conduct was permitted by the state
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