A. Beard’s Case

Author:Kent Roach
Profession:Faculty of Law and Centre of Criminology. University of Toronto

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The genesis of the modern defence of intoxication is found in the House of Lords’ 1920 decision in D.P.P. v. Beard.2In that case, the Court articulated the following propositions:

1) "[T]hat intoxication could be a ground for an insanity defence if it produced a disease of the mind."

2) "That evidence of drunkenness which renders the accused incapable of forming the specific intent essential to constitute the crime should be taken into consideration with the other facts proved in order to determine whether or not he had this intent."

3) "That evidence of drunkenness falling short of a proved incapa-city in the accused to form the intent necessary to constitute the crime, and merely establishing that his mind was affected by drink so that he more readily gave way to some violent passion,

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does not rebut the presumption that a man intends the natural consequences of his acts."3In the actual case, Beard had been drinking when he killed a woman in the course of a rape. Shortly after the killing, he was accepted into a trade union after answering "not unintelligently certain questions which were put to him." The House of Lords confirmed his conviction for constructive murder in the course of a rape by stating: "[D]runkenness in this case could be no defence unless it could be established that Beard at the time of committing the rape was so drunk that he was incapable of forming the intent to commit it, which was not in fact, and manifestly, having regard to the evidence, could not be contended."4

[2] [1920] A.C. 479 (H.L.) [Beard].

[3] Ibid. at 500-2.

[4] Ibid. at 504-5. Constructive or felony murder bases liability for murder on the commission of a serious underlying offence such as rape, whether or not the accused intended to kill the victim or knew that death was likely. If Beard’s case arose today in Canada, he could not be charged with constructive murder. See R. v. Vaillancourt...

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