Criminal case studies

Lee (aged 13) broke into Vera's house, looking for things to steal. He was filling a bag with some choice items when Vera returned unexpectedly. She caught him by the collar and boxed his ears before telling him to "Get out of my house and go home, you spotty, thieving, little slob". Enraged by this, Lee pulled out the knife he was carrying and stabbed her twice in the abdomen. Vera was still alive when paramedics arrived and rushed her to hospital, but on religious grounds she refused to accept a blood transfusion, and eventually died through loss of blood.

Lee suffers from a learning disability, and has a mental age of nine. He is very sensitive about his acne, which is very bad. 1. Consider and explain whether Lee may be guilty : a) of robbery, burglary or aggravated burglary b) of murder or manslaughter 2. In what court would he be tried, and why? 3. Explain why defendants such as Lee can no longer rely on the relatively generous interpretation of the provocation defence adopted by the House of Lords in R V Smith. 1a)

Robbery S8 Theft act 1968 defines robbery as; if a person steals and he uses force on any person or seeks to put them in fear with the aim to steal. The offence therefore involves all the elements of a theft under s1 Theft Act 1968, a person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it, with the addition of the force used upon the victim for the purpose of stealing.

[2]Therefore if Lee stabbed Vera (which he did) in order to steal from her house this would count as robbery, even if he didn't manage to leave with any stolen goods, alike Corcoran v Anderton, this case concerned bag snatching. The attack had been planned and the victim was pushed from behind. She screamed, held onto her bag and fell to the ground, while the youths ran away. But Lee may have attacked Vera just to make an escape even though it was empty handed. This then would not be robbery. Burglary

S9 Theft Act 1968 defines the offence of burglary in two parts, s9 (1)(a) where the defendant enters a building as a trespasser with the intent to steal, inflict grievous bodily harm or do unlawful damage to the building or item inside. Also s9 (1) (b) where the defendant steals or inflicts GBH on another after he has entered as a trespasser or attempts to do any of these things. [1,2,3] An entry can be achieved without actually stepping into the building of question. By placing an arm through the window of said building with the intent to steal once inside can represent an 'entry'.

If the defendant does not intend to commit burglary at the time of entry, only forms this intent after the entry, he cannot be guilty of s9 (1)(a) although he may be guilty of s9 (1)(b). [3] A building is defined by S9 (3) as an inhabited vehicle or vessel such as caravans, houseboats or ships. Case Law however state that sheds, greenhouses, etc can also be classed as buildings. However apart from vehicles and vessels the building does not need to be inhabited to be the focus of burglary. [3]

Therefore Lee can be convicted of both forms of burglary because he not only trespassed intending to steal from said building (guilty under section 9(1) (a), (see Walkington, in which the defendant entered a store, went behind a counter and looked through the till drawer for money, but the drawer was empty so the defendant shut the drawer and left the store. He was arrested and convicted of burglary because it was held that the 'staff only' area of the store which included behind the counter was 'part of the building' which the defendant trespassed upon) [2] but Lee became guilty under s9 (1) (b) as well by stealing after entry.

He committed a 'dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intent to permanently deprive them of it'. Lee committed a further offence under s9 (1)(b) by inflicting GBH upon Vera after trespassing. Aggravated Burglary Section 10 Theft Act 1968 states that; 'a person will be guilty of aggravated burglary if he commits any burglary under s9 and at the time has with him any firearm, or imitation firearm, any weapon of offence or any explosive.

'[2] A 'firearm' can include an airgun/ pistol, and 'imitation firearm' is defined as anything which has the appearance of being a firearm, whether it is capable of being discharged or not. [3] The offence of aggravated burglary is established if the defendant (Lee) merely acquires any of these articles at the time of the offence. The defendant does not have to use the article or even intend to use them; just having the item on them is enough for conviction.

(See Stones 1989 & O'Leary 1986; in Stones 1989 the defendant had a household knife in his ownership, he claimed that this was for self-defence against 'some lads'. The prosecution claimed the knife was intended to cause injury. The Court of Appeal agreed that it wasn't necessary to prove whether the defendant had intended to use the knife but because he had it on his person that was enough for a conviction of burglary. In O'Leary 1986, the defendant hadn't been armed when he entered the building but had taken a knife from a kitchen drawer.

His conviction under s10 withstood as he the knife when he decided to steal. [2] When he entered the house Lee was then guilty of burglary under s9 (1)(a). He then becomes guilty of burglary under s9 (1)(b) when he starts to steal as a trespasser. But Lee only becomes guilty of aggravated burglary under s10 Theft Act 1968 because he is carrying a concealed knife, even if he didn't use the knife on Vera he would still have been convicted of aggravated burglary because it could have been used to threaten or put fear into Vera.