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The courts have
struggled to bring about an appropriate test to apply to cases in regard to
oblique intent. The most pressing issues the courts have focused upon is
whether a subjective or objective test is in order, what degree of probability
is required before it can be said that the defendant intended the result, and
should the degree of probability equal to intention or whether it is evidence
of intention from which the jury may infer. Within case law, oblique intention’s
definition began in Hyam v DPP where the house of lords upheld the conviction
where oblique intention was defined in terms of foresight of a ‘high
probability’, then through Moloney 1985 AC 905, where the defendant shot his
stepfather in a drunken contest, the house of lords quashed the defendant’s
conviction as it was based on an incorrect direction that the defendant
foreseeing a mere ‘probability’ could amount to an intention. However, it was
summed up by Lord Bridge talking loosely of foresight of a ‘natural consequence’
being sufficient. The case of Hancock & Shankland 1986 AC 455 where
mining strikers pushed a concrete block off a bridge intending to scare working
miners, hit a car and killed the victim. Within this case, the trial court
convincted the defendant of murder by following Lord Bridge’s ‘natural
consequence’ formulation. However it was quashed by appeal as both the house of
lords and court of appeals were concerned that the foresight of ‘natural
consequence’ may go beyond foresight of something that is certain. This was
followed by the case of Nedrick 1986 1 WLR 1025 where the defendant poured
paraffin through a letterbox and set it alight, where a child died as a result
of a house fire. The trial court convicted the defendant of murder, where it
was ‘highly probable’ that the defendant would have foresaw death or injury. Court
of appeals quashed this conviction, with Lord Lane CJ clarifying that the jury ‘are
not entitled to infer the necessary intention, unless they feel sure that death
or serious bodily harm was a virtual certainty as a result of the defendants
actions and that the defendant appreciated that such was the case’. This follows
onto Woollin 1998 the leading case for the development of oblique intention,
the court convicted the defendant of murder, but house of lords allowed the
defendants appeal substituting a manslaughter conviction, and endorsed the
standard of ‘virtual certainty’ set out by the court of appeal in Nedrick,
adding it is for the jury to find whether D intended in his oblique sense.

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