R v Heard [2008] QB 43

Sexual Assault – s3 Sexual Offences Act 2003 – Intent – Voluntary Intoxication not a Defence


The police had been called to the defendant’s house; he had been self-harming at the time, appearing depressive and emotional, as well as intoxicated. After requesting help from the police officers, they took him to hospital where he became disruptive and loud in the waiting room. They took him outside where he danced suggestively and took his penis out and rubbed it on one of the officer’s thigh. The defendant could not recall the incident. He was convicted of sexual assault under s3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.


The defendant appealed conviction of sexual assault under s3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The trial judge had stated that he could not rely on his intoxication as a defence to the offence. The issue in the appeal concerned whether the trial judge had erred in this statement that sexual assault was an offence of basic intent.


Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and affirmed that sexual assault was a basic intent offence. It can only be committed by intention to touch and the trial judge was correct in his statement that voluntary intoxication is not an excuse or defence to sexual assault. Although the defendant may have not acted this way when sober or not remember doing so, this did not ‘destroy the intentional character of his touching’ [17]. It was stated that ‘crimes of specific intent are those where the offence requires a proof of purpose or consequence’ [31] and this would include offences of rape, assault by penetration and sexual assault. Voluntary intoxication would not negate this intention.