We are honoured to share this example of how to complete a case in the Ratio Notebook for Law Students. These notes come from the wonderful Bethany, a third-year LLB student at the University of Surrey who has secured a training contract starting in 2021. Bethany is also the Campus Ambassador for Aspiring Solicitors.
R v G and another  UKHL 50
2. Material Facts
- Appellants, aged 11 and 12, went camping without parents' permission.
- During night, they entered back yard of Co-op shop and found bundles of newspapers, which they opened to read.
- Appellants had a lighter on them and lit the newspapers before throwing them under a large plastic wheelie-bin, which was next to the wall of the Co-op and another plastic wheelie-bin.
- Appellants left the back yard of the Co-op without putting out the burning newspapers (because the appellants thought that the newspapers would put themselves out).
- Newspapers then set fire to the wheelie-bin and spread to the adjacent wheelie-bin and up to the roof of the Co-op, causing it to collapse.
- Approximately £1 million worth of damage caused to the Co-op.
- Leading judgment given by Lord Bingham of Cornhill who declared the meaning of 'reckless'.
- Held that a subjective standard of recklessness applies to criminal damage.
- Therefore, the defendants personally could not have foresaw that the lit newspapers they left underneath the wheelie-bin would set fire to the bins in the back yard and thus spread to the roof of the Co-op and caused the damage that it did.
- They were 11 and 12 years old and thus subjectively, due to their lack of life experience, could not have anticipated any risk of damage or any potential for it to occur.
Meaning of recklessness as ruled upon in the case:
'A person acts recklessly within the meaning of section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 with respect to -
(i) a circumstance when he is aware of a risk that it exists or will exist;
(ii) a result when he is aware of a risk that it will occur;
and it is, in the circumstances known to him, unreasonable to take the risk.'
- Determined the meaning of section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 and what Parliament intended in relation to the meaning of 'reckless'.
- Overruled the previous case of MPC v Caldwell (objective test for recklessness)
- Reverted back to a subjective test of recklessness (akin to R v Cunningham)
- The influence of this case in society means that in relation to criminal damage, a subjective test will take account of the defendant's personal circumstances and their ability to foresee risk of damage occurring.
- Could this lead to potential controversies, such as those who are intoxicated with alcohol or illegal substances being acquitted on the basis that their circumstances meant they could not foresee a risk of damage?
- But overall the positives outweigh the negatives, meaning that those who genuinely (due to their circumstances) did not foresee a risk will not be criminally punished eg. A young person, like in the case, or someone who has a low level of intelligence for their age.
Criminal Damage Act 1971, section 1:
(1) A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) A person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property, whether belonging to himself or another -
(a) intending to destroy or damage any property or being reckless as to whether any property would be destroyed or damaged; and
(b) intending by the destruction or damage to endanger the life of another or being reckless as to whether the life of another would be thereby endangered;
shall be guilty of an offence.
- Reckless: R v G interprets that Parliament intended for 'reckless' to have a subjective meaning.
- Subjective: Based on the defendant personally and what they could have foresaw.
- Objective: Based on the 'reasonable' person and what they could have foresaw.
- Relevant case law: R v Cunningham, R v Briggs, MPC v Caldwell, Elliott v C
How do you fill in your Ratio Notebook for Law Students? We would love to know!
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