Regina v. Cunningham, 2 QB. 396 (1957)

Case Name: Regina v. Cunningham
Citation: 2 QB. 396 (1957)

Facts: Regina stole a gas meter from the gas pipes of a home and the gas leaked into the house and partially asphyxiated his future mother-in-law who was sleeping. He served six months for stealing the gas meter and was convicted for “unlawfully and maliciously” endangering another by exposing them to a noxious substance.

Defendant’s argument: No mens rea existed. Also, Regina must have intended to do the harm or that he must foresee the harm and recklessly act. Finally, the judge stated that “malicious” means the same as “wicked” and he found this fact for the jury.

State’s argument: Malice either requires (1) an actual intention to do the particular kind of harm that in fact was done; or (2) recklessness as to whether such harm should occur or not. Malice does not require any ill will towards the person injured. Malice postulates “foresight of consequence.”

Holding: Conviction quashed. It should have been left to the jury to decide whether the defendant foresaw that his action might cause injury to someone.

Reasoning: The trial court judge equated malicious with wicked. He implied that if the jury found the Regina’s act of stealing the gas meter “wicked” then the jury should find Regina maliciously caused that harm.

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