2 Q.B. 396
In the case of Regina v. Cunningham (1957), the defendant faced charges for causing a woman to inhale dangerous coal gas by unlawfully stealing a gas meter. The English Court of Appeal reviewed the case, focusing on the interpretation of "maliciously" in the Offences against the Person Act 1861, section 23. The trial judge defined "maliciously" as "wickedly," but the defendant appealed, arguing this definition was incorrect.
The Court of Appeal sided with the defendant, overturning the conviction. The court determined that "maliciously" in a statutory crime requires a foresight of consequence, meaning the accused must either intend the harm or foresee the potential harm and recklessly disregard the risk. This decision followed a similar ruling in R v Pembliton (1874) and clarified the mens rea (mental element) required for malice-related offences.
This case is significant because it established that malice does not mean wickedness or evil motive but rather an awareness of possible harmful consequences. It also distinguished between direct and indirect consequences, with only the former considered malicious. The case has been cited and applied in various subsequent cases involving offences against people or property.
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