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What is oblique intent in relation to the mens rea of murder?

What is oblique intent in relation to the mens rea of murder?

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Oblique intent operates as a form of intention which may be used to ascertain a defendant’s mens rea. It is mostly primarily used where a direct intention cannot be proven (that the defendant commited the actus reus with that aim) (Child and Ormerod, 2015).

Oblique intention arises where the result of an individual’s act is virtually certain to arise, and the individual recognises this virtual certainty (R v Woollin).

A practical example of oblique intention in operation would be where somebody has placed a bomb in a plane, intending to destroy the plane for insurance purposes. If the bomb explodes, killing passengers, the defendant may argue he does not have the requisite mens rea of murder, because he acted with only the intention to destroy the plane, not to kill anybody. However, in this case, oblique intention would be operable as it is clear that the passengers' deaths are a virtually certain consequence of destroying the plane, and the defendant would have recognised this, too.

It is important to note that the existence of oblique intent does not mean the jury must find intention, rather, they may choose to find intention.


Child, J and Ormerod, D Smith and Hogan’s Essentials of Criminal Law (Oxford University Press 2015)
R v Woollin [1999] AC