The conviction of assault

Nonetheless, intention is not the same as motive. A definition of intention was given in the case of Cunliffe v Goodman[15] as: ‘an intention…connotes a state of affairs which the party intending…does more than merely contemplate; it connotes a state of affairs which, on the contrary, he decided, so far as in him lies, to bring about, and which in point of possibility, he has a reasonable prospect of being able to bring about by his own act of volition’.

An intentional act carried out by somebody is done so in the hope to bring about a particular result. An actor will have done so ‘without any real conscious thought about the nature of his intention and the best means of effecting that intention’. [16] It is impossible to determine what somebody was thinking at a time in question to understand what their intention would be. The only way to assume somebody’s intention is by looking at their actions.

The case of HM Advocate v Rutherford[17] states, ‘intent must always be a matter of inference – inference mainly from what the person does, but partly from the whole surrounding circumstances of the case’. From this statement, we can prove whether Matthew had the necessary mens rea of assault by firstly looking at his actions. The facts of the case prove that Matthew was enraged by the situation as he ‘rushed’ down the side of John’s house and ‘brandished’ his sons toy gun.

Matthews’s conduct could be regarded as intentionally evil by the way he addressed the situation. Matthew also shouted incoherently at John, which again concludes that he was in a state of anger and therefore potentially shouting abusive comments towards him. Although Matthew didn’t physically attack John, he put him in a state of fear by threatening him with the toy gun without any conscious thought about the nature of his actions and therefore this is enough evidence to constitute to the crime of assault.

The second step to establishing Matthews’s intention of his actions is to look at the admissions that were made whilst under caution. When questioned, Matthew admitted that it was him but insisted that it was only meant as a joke so that John would turn the radio down. Referring to the statement given by Cubie, it is obvious that Matthew did more than merely contemplate the situation and thus proved that he was acting with intention. Therefore, it is evident that Matthew was thinking intentionally as he was seeking a result from his actions.

The surrounding facts of the case amount to Matthew’s motive for his conduct that lead him to committing the assault. Because of these factors there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Matthew was acting with evil intent. In conclusion, Matthew could try arguing that there was no mens rea for assault as he thought he was just playing a joke. Referring to the judgement of Lord Advocate’s Reference (No. 2 of 1992)[18] it was specified that there must be evidence of evil intent to be convicted of assault.

This is obvious from the outcome of the Quinn v Lees[19] case as well as the Baxter v HM Advocate[20] case. It is apparent from the judgements of these cases that the courts separately analyse the intention of the accused’s act and the accused’s motive for committing that act. Playing a joke on somebody is not the intention of the accused but the motive driving him or her to bring about their desired result. Matthew’s inferences at the time of the incident remain intentional and constitute to the conviction of assault.