R v Parker [1977] 1 WLR 600

Failure to consider consequences from one’s actions and risk of damage


The appellant had tried (and failed) to place a telephone call in a street telephone booth. This infuriated him and in a rage, he slammed the handset onto the telephone, causing damage to the latter. He had argued that he had not, at all, contemplated the risk of damage to the telephone.


In what circumstances does a failure on the part of a Defendant to contemplate the risk of damage prevent him from being found guilty under the recklessness head of s.1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971?


Cunningham Recklessness (from R v Cunningham [1957]) was modified to clarify that wilfully ignoring the potential for risk does not protect one from a conviction under the recklessness limb of s.1 CDA 1971. Closing one’s eyes to an obvious risk is not a sufficient defence. In the present case, the damage to the phone was an obvious, even inevitable, outcome of the appellant’s actions. Deliberately closing his mind to the risk in these circumstances was tantamount to knowledge in the eyes of the court.

“…a man certainly cannot escape the consequences of his action in this particular set of circumstances by saying ‘I never directed my mind to the obvious consequences because I was in a self-induced state of temper’” (Lane LJ, p.604).

The modified Cunnighamtest adopted was that a defendant would be reckless in the necessary sense for a s.1 CDA 1971 conviction if he carried out a deliberate act either with the knowledge that there is some risk of damage flowing from his act or while closing his mind to that obvious risk and carrying out the act anyway.