R v Brown and Stratton [1988] Crim LR 484

Drunken intent as sufficient mens rea for specific intent offences; how serious harm ought be assessed.


Brown and Stratton were cousins who jointly attacked Stratton’s father as Stratton found his father’s ongoing gender reassignment embarrassing. The drunken defendants went to the father’s house, intending to assault her and inflicted various injuries including a broken nose, a concussion and knocked out several teeth. The defendants pleaded guilty to actual bodily harm but denied causing grievous bodily harm.


Whether in considering if harm inflicted was ‘really serious’ to satisfy a GBH charge, the victim’s subjective opinion ought be considered or an objective approach ought be taken. Moreover, does drunken intent to cause general harm suffice for a finding of specific intent to cause harm, as is necessary for a charge of wounding or GBH under s. 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act, but not necessary for the lesser charge of ABH under s. 47.


Upon appeal, the Court overturned the trial judge’s direction, instead finding that ‘really serious’ harm was to be understood from a general and objective perspective, rather than the victim’s subjective opinion. Nonetheless, it was deemed that the numerous lesser injuries sustained by the victim ought be considered together and thus were sufficient for a s. 20 charge, despite that none of the injuries viewed in isolation would have sufficed for this charge. However, it was found intoxication could be considered in determining whether there was specific intent, and on this ground the defendants’ charges were lessened to ABH under s. 47.