Specific and basic intent

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Specific and basic intent
  • Specific intent—definition
  • Basic intent—definition
  • Offences of specific intent include:
  • Offences of basic intent include:
  • Effect of offence being one of either specific or basic intent
  • Voluntary intoxication
  • The ‘Dutch courage’ rule
  • Involuntary intoxication
  • Automatism (not as a result of self-induced intoxication)
  • More...

Specific and basic intent

Specific intent—definition

Offences requiring specific intent are of two kinds:

  1. where the mental element of the offence requires a purposive intent rather than recklessness, eg murder requires an intent to kill or do grievous bodily harm,

  2. where the offence is one of intent to do something beyond the act forming the offence (sometimes referred to as ‘ulterior intent’)

Basic intent—definition

Where an offence may be committed intentionally or recklessly, it is an offence of basic intent.

Offences of specific intent include:

  1. murder

  2. robbery

  3. wounding with intent

  4. burglary

  5. any attempt to commit an offence

  6. handling stolen goods, and

  7. destroying or damaging property intending to destroy or damage property

Offences of basic intent include:

  1. manslaughter

  2. malicious wounding

  3. assaults which do not require specific intent

  4. taking a conveyance without authority

Effect of offence being one of either specific or basic intent

Voluntary intoxication

Where the offence is one of basic intent, the defendant will not be able to assert that he lacked the mental element required for the offence because he was voluntarily intoxicated, if he would have had the necessary mental state had he not been intoxicated.

A defendant is not entitled to rely on self-defence if, because of self-induced intoxication, he made a mistake as to the amount of force reasonably necessary to defend himself and had used more force than was necessary.

(Voluntary intoxication may be evidence that an

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