R v Vickers – Case Summary

R v Vickers

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1957] 3 WLR 326; [1957] 2 QB 664.


The appellant was burgling a house when the elderly houseowner confronted him. To avoid being recognised, the appellant struck her many times. She died as a result of her injuries.

The appellant was convicted of murder. He appealed his conviction on the basis that he never intended to kill the woman, and so could only be guilty of manslaughter. He relied on s.1(1) of the Homicide Act 1957, which abolished the notion of ‘constructive malice’:

‘Where a person kills another in the course or furtherance of some other offence, the killing shall not amount to murder unless done with the same malice aforethought (express or implied) as is required for a killing to amount to murder when not done in the course or furtherance of another offence.’

  1. What is the mens rea of murder?

The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction. The defendant intended to inflict grievous bodily harm, which was sufficient to establish the mens rea of murder. This was not the same as the abolished ‘constructive malice’, which allowed even minor violence in the pursuit of a separate felony offence (such as burglary or rape) to amount to murder if the victim unexpectedly died.

This Case is Authority For…

The mens rea of murder is intention to kill or caused grievous bodily harm.