Essay by hippyflowerUniversity, Bachelor'sB-, January 2006

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Recklessness is a form of mens rea that amounts to less than intention but more than negligence. Originally the courts have given recklessness a subjective meaning through the meaning case of Cunningham [1957] 2 QB 396. The defendant was convicted under s.23 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 as maliciously administrating a noxious thing so as to endanger life. The conviction was quashed as it was held that the term 'maliciously' meant 'wickedly'. The Court of Criminal Appeal held that the word malice should not be taken in the old vague sense of meaning wicked but as either, an actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was done or from the reckless point of view were the accused foreseen harm might be done and yet has gone on to take the risk of it. The courts now refer to section 1 of the Act to mean 'intentionally or recklessly'.

Following from this case, a drastic redefinition of recklessness took place in Caldwell [1982] AC 341. The defendant was found guilty of two accounts of arson under section 1 (1) and (2). He pleaded guilty to the first as he intentionally or recklessly caused damage to the property. On the second account of arson he pleaded not guilty with the intent to endanger life through recklessness as he said he was so drunk it was not a foreseeable action. Even though the defendant was found guilty due to drunkenness not being an offence, it was thought important to redefine the meaning of recklessness. Caldwell- type recklessness can be expressed where the risk is obvious in two limbs; firstly if he has not given any thought to the possibility of there being any such risk. Or secondly, he has recognised there is some risk involved...