Jaggard v Dickinson [1981] 1 QB 527

Criminal Damage – Intoxication – Mistake


The defendant had been told by a friend that they could stay at their house and “use it as their own”.  Returning to the street drunk one evening the defendant attempted to gain access to an identical house on the street after mistaking it for her friend’s property.  After being denied access by the actual owner, the defendant broke a window and gained access through this way.  After being arrested the defendant indicated that she mistakenly believed it was her friend’s house and that her friend would have consented to her gaining entry by breaking a window.  She was charged with Criminal Damage contrary to s1(1) Criminal Damage Act 1971 and convicted.  The defendant appealed.


Was the defendant entitled to rely on the defence of mistake?  Whether the defendant’s intoxicated mistake that the victim would have consented to her criminal damage was a defence.  Whether voluntary intoxication is excuse to criminal damage.


The appeal was successful.  The defendant was entitled to rely on mistake as a defence under s5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971 which provides that it is a lawful excuse for a person committing criminal damage that they believed the person who owned the property in question would have consented.  This was even so considering the defendant’s state of intoxication.  As such, this formed a special statutory exception to the general rule set down in DPP v Majewski [1976] UKHL 2 which provides that voluntary intoxication was no excuse for crimes of basic intent.  Whilst voluntary intoxication is not a defence to criminal damage, the statutory defence available under s5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act applied regardless of the defendant’s state of voluntary intoxication.