R v Latimer (1886) 17 QBD 359

Doctrine of Transferred Malice


The defendant was in an argument with another in a pub. The argument escalated and the defendant attempted to hit the other man with his belt, but missed. While only marginally hitting his intended victim, the defendant’s blow was instead redirected and hit a woman standing next to the intended victim. The woman was severely injured. The defendant was prosecuted for unlawful and malicious wounding, contrary to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, section 20.


The issue in the case was whether it was possible to convict the defendant of the s.20 OAPA 1861 offence in a situation where he had intended to harm another and only accidently harmed his actual victim. In effect, the question was whether the mens rea of the offence could be transferred from the intended victim to the actual victim (with the actus reus) being already directed at the actual victim.


The court held that it is possible to use the doctrine of transferred malice outside of the bounds of murder cases. It was therefore possible to rely upon in in cases such as for a s.20 OAPA situation of inflicting of bodily injury. Pembliton ((1874) LR 2 CCR 119was distinguished on the grounds that it applied only to a particular kind of malice – malicious injury to property (there transferring malice was not allowed, but this was because there was an attempt to transfer malice from an offence against property to an offence against the person, which are completely different offences). Therefore, the Defendant was held to be liable for the injuries of his actual victim despite having no intention to injure her.