Intention, and Knowing The Nature and Quality of An Act

Publication Date01 May 1956
AuthorA. E. Gotlieb
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1956.tb00360.x
Date01 May 1956
INTENTION, AND KNOWING
THE
NATURE
AND QUALITY
OF
AN ACT
WAS
the accused “labouring under such a defect of reason from
disease of the mind as not to know the nature and quality of
the act he was doing”?
This
is an important question in the
criminal law. But this test of insanity laid down by
McNaghten’a
case1 has not been confined
to
crime.
It
has been extended
to
cases of divorce for cruelty and recently to tort as weLa Curiously
enough, in spite of the importance of the formula “know the
nature and quality of the act,” its precise meaning is far from
certain. Nor is
it
clear to what extent one may intend
an
act
and yet not know its nature and quality. In
Mom’ss
v.
MarsdenYa
where insanity was unsuccessfully raised as a defence to an action
for
assault, Stable
J.
seemed not to differentiate between intending
an act and knowing its nature and quality.
If,
before one may
be said to intend an act, one must know its nature and quality,
there would scarcely be any need for the special McNaghten test.
Hence we shall attempt to point out some differences between
intention and the McNaghten formula ,and then discuss the larger
significance of both tests.
That to intend an act
it
is not necessary to desire
it
as well
was pointed out long ago by both Bentham and Austin.. The
confusion caused by speaking of intention
in
terms of desire’
will
now
be dispelled,
it
is hoped, by the recent case of
Lang
v.
Lang,’
a petition for divorce for constructive desertion,
On
the question
whether the husband intended to desert
his
wife by, in effect,
driving her from the matrimonial home by his cruelty, Lord Porter
first asks, “What, then, is the legal result where an intention
to
bring about a particular result
.
. .
co-exists with a desire that
that result should not ensue?
(p.
778).
He then supplies the
answer
:
“If
the husband knows the probable result of
his
acts and
persists in them
. . .
that is enough, however passionately he
may desire
or
request that
she
should remain.
His
intention
is
to
act as he did, whatever the consequences, though he may
hope and desire that they will not produce their probable
effect.”
*
(1843)
10
C.
&
F.
uw).
a
Morriss
v.
Maraden
[1952]
1
All
E.R.
925;
[1962]
1
T.L.R.
947.
White
v.
White
[1950]
P.
99.
3
Supra,
note
2.
4
Austin.
Lectures
on
Jurisprudence,
Lecture
XIX;
Bentham,
Principles
of
Morals
and
Legislation,
Chap.
VIII,
pnrs.
VI.
6
e.g.,
Kenn
,
Outlincs
of
Ctimtnal
Lor0
(Turner
ed.),
p.
97.
6
[1954]
3
&.b.R.
762.
270

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT