R v Woods (Walter) – Case Summary

R v Woods (Walter)

Court of Appeal

Citations: (1982) 74 Cr App R 312.


The appellant was charged with raping the victim. His defence was that he was too drunk to realise that she was not consenting. At trial, the jury were directed to ignore the evidence of his self-induced intoxication, since it did not change the fact that he was reckless as to whether he was consenting (which was sufficient mens rea for rape at the time). The appellant was convicted. He appealed, arguing that the judge’s direction to the jury was wrong in law.

  1. Could the jury consider evidence of self-induced intoxication when determining whether a defendant has the mens rea for rape?

The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction. The judge had been correct to hold that evidence of self-induced intoxication was irrelevant to whether the appellant had the mens rea for rape.

This Case is Authority For…

Rape is an offence of basic intent, for the purposes of the rules surrounding the effect of intoxication on mens rea. The court indicated that this was true of any offence of recklessness, since becoming too drunk to properly appraise one’s actions is itself reckless.

While the mens rea of rape has since changed to an objective standard, this rule remains true. The defendant’s drunkenness cannot affect whether he has a reasonable belief in consent. Similar reasoning applies: a reasonable person would not become too drunk to appraise whether the victim is consenting.