R v Nedrick [1986] 1 WLR 102

Murder – Mens Rea – Foresight – Intention – Inferred Intent


The defendant Nedrick held a grudge against a woman.  In the middle of the night he drove to her house before pouring petrol through her letter box and igniting it.  The defendant, without warning anyone in the house then drove home.  As a result of the fire a child died and Nedrick was charged with murder.   The trial judge directed the jury that if the defendant knew it was highly probable that the act would result in serious bodily harm to someone, even if he did not desire that result, he would be guilty of murder.  Nedrick was convicted of murder and appealed.


Whether a jury is entitled to infer intent if they consider a defendant’s actions highly likely to cause death or serious bodily harm.  Whether the defendant’s foresight of the likely consequences of his act is sufficient to satisfy the mens rea of murder as intent.  Whether the trial judge’s direction to the jury that the defendant could be guilty of murder if he knew it was highly probable that serious bodily harm would occur as a result of his act was a misdirection.


The appeal was allowed.  The trial judge’s direction was a mis-direction.  Modifying R v Moloney [1985] 1 AC 905, the Court of Appeal held that the jury should be directed that they are not entitled to infer intention unless they are satisfied that they felt sure that death or serious bodily injury was a virtual certainty of the defendant’s actions and that the defendant knew this.