R v Pearman (Stephen Dennis) – Case Summary

R v Pearman (Stephen Dennis)

Court of Appeal

Citations: (1985) 80 Cr App R 259.


During a traffic stop, the defendant drunkenly swerved his car towards police officers. This knocked one officer into his police car. Another police officer avoided a collision by jumping behind the police car.

The defendant was charged with (among other offences) attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent to cause GBH, contrary to s.18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. He was convicted after the judge directed the jury that the mens rea for this offence was foresight that the defendant’s actions would probably cause GBH. The defendant appealed, arguing that the jury should only convict if the prosecution proved that he specifically intended to cause GBH.

  1. Is recklessness sufficient to establish an attempt to commit an offence?

The Court of Appeal overturned the conviction. The judge had been incorrect to direct the jury that foresight (recklessness) was enough. Intention was necessary.

This Case is Authority For…

For an attempt, the prosecution must prove that the defendant intended (either in the purposive or oblique sense) to commit the primary offence. Recklessness is insufficient. This is true regardless of the mens rea for the primary offence.

For example, the mens rea of murder is intention to kill or cause GBH. However, a defendant cannot be convicted of attempted murder if he merely intended to commit GBH. The prosecution would have to prove that he intended specifically to kill.


The fact that the defendant foresaw the possibility of harm may provide some evidence that he intended it. However, foresight and intention are not the same state of mind.