R v Latimer [1886]

R v Latimer [1886] 17 QBD 359 is an English criminal law case that concerned the doctrine of transferred malice. The central question was whether the defendant could be convicted of the offence, considering that he had intended to harm one person but had accidentally harmed another. Specifically, the issue was whether the doctrine of transferred malice could be applied outside the context of murder cases.

During an argument in a pub, the defendant attempted to hit another man with his belt but missed. Instead, the blow struck a woman standing next to the intended victim, causing severe injuries. The defendant was prosecuted for unlawful and malicious wounding under Section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

The court held that the doctrine of transferred malice could be applied in cases beyond murder. In this situation, the mens rea (intention to harm) could be transferred from the intended victim to the actual victim, even though the actus reus (the act causing harm) was initially directed at the actual victim. The court distinguished the case from R v Pembliton [1874], emphasising that the prohibition on transferring malice in Pembliton was specific to malicious injury to property and did not apply to offences against the person. Consequently, the defendant was held liable for the injuries inflicted on the unintended victim, despite having no intention to harm her.
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