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The first in a series of online lectures by members of the CB's new Academic Sub-Committee">

CBA Lecture: The Oversimplicity of Intention

Professor Matthew Dyson, University of Oxford
The Oversimplicity of Intention
Wednesday, 26th October 2022
18.00 – 19.00
via ZOOM
The access link will be circulated on the day to those who register to attend.


English criminal law uses a simple concept of intention to convict.  Intention is the pinnacle of fault elements, but ignores all nuance or considering of /how /a person decides. It is also vague, with no formal definition and only a rarely-deployed extension of oblique intention to call upon in cases of doubt. Any sense of the balance of reasons the actor has is ignored once our unarticulated threshold for intention is met. Intention is purpose stripped of motive, context and calculation. But legal theory, and practical application of the law, has meant that we have to remedy this oversimplicity by calling in other doctrines, particularly;
(1) by bringing purpose back in defences like self-defence, or permitting them within the objective limb of recklessness or within “acting reasonably” provisions;
(2) intoxication rules;
(3) transferred malice; and
(4) imprecise conditional intention formulations, relying on juries to solve issues of principle.
This paper considers the shape and structure of the criminal law guides how we apply it in practice, and
what we might do differently.


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