R v Savage; R v Parmenter [1991]

R v Savage; R v Parmenter [1991] UKHL 15 were conjoined final appeals in English criminal law that revolved around the mens rea required under Sections 20 and 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OAPA). The fundamental distinction lies in the mental element necessary for each offence.

Parmenter's Case
Philip Parmenter, who rough-handled his baby son during the first three months, caused injuries to the baby's legs and right forearm. The jury convicted him under Section 20 for wounding or causing grievous bodily harm. The Court of Appeal initially granted the appeal, seeking acquittal, citing a collision between two ideas about punishing unforeseen consequences based on intent or consequences. The court quashed the convictions but could not substitute a lesser offence.

Savage's Case
Susan Savage threw her pint of beer over Tracey Beal, her husband's ex-girlfriend, in a pub on March 31, 1989. The glass slipped from her hand, cutting the victim's wrist. The jury found that Savage deliberately threw the beer and negligently allowed the glass to slip, with no intent to wound or cause grievous bodily harm. She was initially convicted of malicious wounding, but the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction, substituting it with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The central issue before the House of Lords was whether, under Sections 20 and 47 OAPA, the defendant must have intended or foreseen some harm, the exact harm caused, or if there was no requirement to foresee any harm at all.

Savage's appeal was dismissed, affirming that the mens rea under Section 20 OAPA encompasses the defendant's subjective intent or foresight of some physical harm. The harm foreseen need not be wounding or grievous bodily harm but could be of a minor character.

Parmenter's appeal was allowed, and his conviction under Section 20 OAPA was substituted for Section 47. Lord Ackner clarified that under Section 47 OAPA, the only mens rea required is that for assault, without the necessity of intending or foreseeing physical harm.

Lord Ackner emphasised that "maliciously" in Section 20 implies the defendant's intention or foresight of some physical harm, adopting the Cunningham recklessness standard. The harm intended or foreseen need not be severe, broadening the scope beyond wounding or grievous bodily harm. In contrast, Section 47 OAPA merely requires the mens rea for assault without the added element of intending or foreseeing physical harm.
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