Metropolitan Police Commissioner v Caldwell [1982] AC 341

Voluntary intoxication, intent and recklessness under CDA 1971


The appellant had worked in a hotel and during this employment he developed a grudge against the hotel owner. This eventually came to the fore when the appellant became intoxicated and started a fire on the hotel premises. At that moment, 10 guests were present in the hotel, sleeping. No one came to harm however as the fire was quickly extinguished. The defendant was convicted under s.1(2) Criminal Damage Act 1971 (aggravated criminal damage with intention to endanger life or recklessness as to the endangerment of life). The recorder had instructed the jury that self-induced drunkenness was no defence under s.1 CDA 1971. The defendant appealed on the grounds that he had been so intoxicated that he had not contemplated the risk or possibility of endangering life as a result of his actions and therefore had neither intended to endanger life, nor had he been reckless as to that risk.


The issue in this appeal was whether self-induced intoxication affects the determination of whether the defendant intended to endanger the life of another and whether he was reckless as to whether the life of another would be endangered, in the context of s.1(2)(b) CDA 1971.


Self-induced intoxication could not be a relevant defence to a charge which included recklessness as to whether life is endangered. The test for recklessness is objective. The case introduced the so called Caldwell Recklessness, which stipulated that recklessness can be found when a person carries out an act which creates an obvious risk for the destruction or damage or property and he has, at that time, not contemplated the possibility of the risk or has recognised that some risk exists, but has nevertheless continued with his course of action. However, Caldwell Recklessness has since been overruled in R v G [2004] 1 AC 1034.