European Convention on Human Rights

While the law may be indeed flexible and open to consideration, it must also not be too flexible. Many will argue that because there is a degree of flexibility then this provides no certainty within the law. It was said that by ‘applying the Woollin judgment…it would result in many individuals avoiding convictions for murder. ’[29] However, this is not the case, which is supported by the case of R v. Matthews and Alleyne and the example of a terrorist bomber.

A terrorist aims to create a warning by blowing up a building with no intention to kill, and is not certain death will occur. Yet death did occur as a result, then can the terrorist be convicted of murder? If the virtual certainty test was applied it may and can be found that the defendant had no intention to kill and then can not be convicted of murder. However, this is not the case. Socially terrorism is deemed as morally wrong, and they should be guilty of murder.

Therefore, the fact that the Woollin case had no defined intention and the test is not a necessary requirement it can provide a clear argument for certainty within the law of intention as it provides enough leeway to avoid absurd results, such as clearing a terrorist bomber of murder. The ‘jury has the scope to convict of murder if they think it deserved. ’[30] This is shown in R v. Matthews and Alleyne, were the Woollin guidelines were dismissed as the Lords ruled that the jury should only be directed when need be, and that Woollin was not a rule of law and did not need to be followed rigidly.

However, it can be said that because the law of intention had not be defined it creates a degree of uncertainty and blurs the clarity of the law. This can be supported in the argument that there is a need for reform in regard to the definition of intention. The Lords in Woollin agreed that by changing infer to find it would be in the interest of clarifying the law. However, Arfan Khan disputes this and believes that ‘this approach does not promote clarity and consistency within the law,’[31] and that ‘the jury is left to infer requisite intention to kill. ’[32] This is said to be opposing Article 6.

European Convention on Human Rights[33], which ‘suggests that the guilt of the accused should be proven beyond reasonable doubt. ’[34] The European Convention on Human Rights reinforces the need for certainty and clarity within the law and that ‘entitled’ that was used by the Lords suggests that it is voluntary rather and obligatory and therefore creates a air of uncertainty. ‘The need for legal certainty stressed by the European Convention of Human Rights provides a strong case in the favor of the implementation of statutory definition of intention.

’[35] Yet, if the law followed the rules which have been set down by the European Convention on Human Rights then the law would not be classed as subjective, and absurd results would be more likely to occur. The idea of having a statutory definition of intention would create a less flexible law, which would struggle to consider personal factors. It is very much agreed that reforms need to be put in place, which regard to the law of intention. Not so much as to how it works, but rather the true definition of intention.

It was suggested that the law adopted a model laid out by the law commission in order to help define intention. Both models would see the codifying of the definition to a certain extent and provide not a rigid set of rules and definitions but rather guidelines that can be generalized and followed by the juries, and would be able to be applied to different circumstances. One of the models would establish defined criteria for juries to consider in their deliberation as to whether the accused acted with intent during the acts they committed.

As the Woollin case is not a rule of law and did not define intention it does not necessary need to be followed, yet if there was a codified meaning of intention then juries and judges could follow it may see the end to confusion the law has caused. If there were a definition of intention, that was accepted by the courts and is morally and socially acceptable, then this would create consistency and certainty within the law. It can be widely accepted that the law of intention is one that is far from being defined, and shows no sign of being defined in the near future.

It can be questioned as to whether it will ever be completely and properly defined. There is a clear need for reforms in regard to the definition of intention, yet this is also looks to be a area of confusion, as there is no agreement as to what would be a acceptable general definition. The ‘House of Lords have left the door ajar’[36] in order to provide enough ‘moral elbow room’[37] for which many will argue provides justice. The definition of intention is one in which provides a degree of uncertainty and clarity within the law, and ‘it would surely be better to adopt a tighter definition of intention.

’[38] Woollin, can be said to have had not much affect on the way the law of intention works, and that the main case regarding intention is in fact Nedrick, which provided us with the virtual certainty test. The law is able to work in a satisfactory manner, as it is not bound by a set of guidelines, which see the law to be too rigid to allow flexibility. The law can is able to take into consideration factors relevant to that the particular case, rather than have set guidelines for every case regarding intention. It has proven to be a law of fairness and consideration, respecting morality and individual people.