Criminal Law and Process

Intoxication with drugs or alcohol is the commonplace topic of such charges as disorderly and drunk conduct or drunk driving. Usually, in offences, intoxication plays the role of aggravating circumstances that affect negatively and exacerbate the criminal liability. About 50% of violent and property offences are committed by people who alcohol or drug self-induced, and although, drug or alcohol misuse may not be directly connected to the crimes; moreover, it is obvious that alcohol and drug abuse often play a role of catalyst of a criminal offence.

In Regina, on 11th July 1987, O’Grady appealed against conviction of manslaughter and being sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment, relying on self-defence. The case is ? 5952/B/86 [1987] EWCA Crim 2. The Lord Chief Justice of England (Lord Lane C. J.), Mr. Justice Boreham and Mr. Justice McCowan are versus Patrick Gerald O’Grady. The case was heard in Royal Courts of Justice. On 26th September 1985, McCloskey (the victim) and the appellant spent the whole day drinking. Later, the victim and appellant had a fight, and McCloskey bled to death as a result of inflicted injuries. Therefore, the appellant came to police voluntarily and reported a murder. A number of bruises and cuts to the body, hands, legs and head were found; they were consistent with grasping broken glass and fighting. Both the victim and the appellant were deadly drunk at the time of the crime. Defendant claimed that he had to apply the reasonable force to save his life and that he had no intent of killing since he and deceased were friends (EWCA, 1987).

Lord Lane C.J., who was leading judge, noted that there were two contradictory aspects. The first was that the defendant supposedly believed that he acted in self-defence. The second was that the person was killed as a result of drunken fight, which cannot be extenuating circumstances. Indeed, the defendant became drunk voluntary (Jefferson, 2008). It is impossible to turn the voluntary intoxication into extenuating circumstances because in such case everyone could imbibe some alcohol or drugs and commit crime. On the other hand, the defendant acted in self-defence, and that should be extenuating circumstances, but state of mind of an intoxicated person is difficult to determine; so there is impossible to establish the real level of danger. Considering that the deceased has never threatened to the life of defendant in sober condition, there are no grounds to suggest that he was the attacker. Moreover, the jury took into account that there was no intent of killing, so the defendant was justly convicted in manslaughter but not murder. The petition based on the self-defence basis that defendant appeal to the court was justly dismissed on the same reason (LG, 1987).

Voluntary intoxication cannot be extenuating circumstances to any crime. In 2008, parliament validated this decision and enacted clarification of the law on the usage of reasonable force in self-defence in which was conditioned that any mistaken belief concomitant to voluntary induced intoxication is not reliable for defence. It is essential to abolish a difference between whomever or whatever the voluntary intoxicated person thinks that he is killing. Consequently, such loopholes in the law open up possibilities for speculations. Therefore, without hesitation, a voluntary intoxication should never be extenuating circumstance, and, definitely, it should remain aggravating circumstance.

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