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Joe Wren alias Dixon Dee V. The King (1951) LJR-WACA

Joe Wren alias Dixon Dee V. The King (1951)

LawGlobal Hub Judgment Report – West African Court of Appeal

Conviction of murder—Defence of Drunkenness—Distinction between drunkenness occasioning insanity and drunkenness rendering a person incapable of forming specific intent—Misdirection–Application of proviso to section 4 (1) of the West African Court of Appeal (Criminal) Ordinance, Cap. 265—
Practice in England under proviso of section 4 (1) of the Criminal Act, 1907,
to be followed.

Facts

The appellant was convicted of murder of one Bia Kamara and appealed on the ground that the presiding Judge misdirected the Jury by failing to direct them that they were entitled to find the appellant guilty of manslaughter if they were of the opinion that he was so intoxicated as not to be able to form the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm.


The appellant alleged at his trial that he was so drunk that he did not remember causing the death of Bia Kamara. No witness on either side confirmed that appellant had reached anything like this degree of intoidcation. It was also proved that immediately after the murder the appellant ran into his own house and changed his trousers, and spoke rationally to the police when arrested a few hours later.


In his summing-up the trial Judge referred to the issue of drunkenness on a number of occasions, but did not clearly distinguish between the defences of drunkenness and insanity as laid down by the House of Lords in Beard’s Case (1), where the Lord Chancellor distinguished between drunkenness occasioning insanity justifying a special verdict of guilty but insane, and drunkenness rendering an accused person incapable of forming a specific intent, thereby reducing the crime from murder to manslaughter.

Furthermore, if the jury followed the Judge’s directions they could only return the verdict .of guilty of murder or not guilty, as they were not directed concerning the special verdict of guilty but insane, or that they might acquit him of murder and find him guilty of manslaughter.

See also  James Latunde Aderoxit V. United Africa Company Limited (1941) LJR-WACA


This Court also considered whether it could dismiss the appeal by applying the proviso to section 4 (1) of the West African Court of Appeal Ordinance (Cap. 265), which is in the same terms as the proviso to section 4 (1) of the Criminal Appeal Act, 1907.

Held

There had been misdirection. Although the evidence that the appellant was too drunk to form a malicious intent was weak, the Court could not be sure that the jury with a proper direction might not reasonably have returned a verdict of manslaughter. Consequently, the proviso to section 4 (1) of the West African Court of Appeal (Criminal) Ordinance could not be applied. There could, however, be no doubt that if the jury had acquitted the appellant of murder they would have been bound to find him guilty of manslaughter. A verdict of manslaughter was substituted.


Appeal allowed. Conviction of murder set aside and verdict of manslaughter substituted.

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