R v Brown & Stratton – Case Summary

R v Brown and Stratton

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1998] Crim LR 485.


The defendant drunkenly attacked the victim. The attack broke her nose, removed three teeth, lacerated her eye and gave her a concussion. The defendant confessed to causing actual bodily harm. However, he denied that the victim’s injuries amounted to grievous bodily harm.

At trial, the judge directed the jury to consider whether the victim’s injuries were not ‘really serious’ from her point of view. He also directed them that ‘drunken intent is still intent’. The jury found the defendant guilty of causing grievous bodily harm with intent under s.18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The defendant appealed, arguing that the judge misdirected the jury.

  1. Had the judge correctly directed the jury on the meaning of grievous bodily harm?
  2. Was the direction on drunken intent sufficient?

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal in part. They noted that judges should explain that grievous bodily harm is ‘really serious harm’. They should not attempt to define the phrase further. The judge had also incorrectly reversed the burden of proof and applied the wrong standard. He should have asked the jury whether the injuries were objectively grievous, not whether they weren’t subjectively grievous. However, on the facts the jury were entitled to deem the victim’s injuries grievous.

The judge had also misdirected the jury on the issue of drunken intent. He should have told them that they could take into account the defendant’s drunkenness when deciding whether he intended to cause grievous bodily harm. It was possible that the defendant had merely intended to cause lesser harm, but had misjudged the likely effect of his actions due to his inebriation.

As such, the court quashed the conviction and substituted a conviction for inflicting grievous bodily harm under s.20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

This Case is Authority For…

‘Grievous bodily harm’ means ‘really serious harm. This is assessed from an objective standpoint.

The prosecution must prove mens rea. If the defendant did not in fact form the relevant mens rea because he was drunk, then he is not guilty of an offence.