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Malice vs Intent

Malice and intent are legal terms often used to describe different mental states or culpable mental elements in criminal law. While they share some similarities, they have distinct meanings:


Intent or Intention refers to the actor's purpose or aim in committing a particular act. It involves a conscious decision to bring about a specific result or to engage in conduct with a particular outcome in mind. For example, if someone intentionally shoots another person with the aim of causing harm or death, their act is characterised by the specific purpose to achieve that result.


Malice is a broader term encompassing various mental states that involve a wrongful intent or a desire to cause harm. It is often categorised into different types, including express malice (explicit intent to cause harm), implied malice (reckless indifference to the consequences), and malice aforethought (intent to cause serious bodily harm or death in the context of murder). For example, in a murder case, malice aforethought might refer to the defendant's intentional decision to cause the death of another person.

In summary, intent is a specific mental state involving a conscious decision to achieve a particular result, while malice is a more general concept encompassing various forms of wrongful intent or desire to cause harm.

Check out our exam-focused Criminal Law notes now.

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