R v Majewski

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
JudgeLord Elwyn-Jones (Lord Chancellor),Lord Diplock,Lord Simon of Glaisdale,Lord Kilbrandon,Lord Salmon,Lord Edmund-Davies,Lord Russell of Killowen,and
Judgment Date13 April 1976
Judgment citation (vLex)[1976] UKHL J0413-2
Date13 April 1976
CourtHouse of Lords
Director of Public Prosecutions
(on Appeal from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division))

[1976] UKHL J0413-2

Lord Chancellor

Lord Diplock

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

Lord Kilbrandon

Lord Salmon

Lord Edmund-Davies

Lord Russell of Killowen

House of Lords

Upon Report from the Appellate Committee, to whom was referred the Cause Director of Public Prosecutions against Majewski (on Appeal from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)), That the Committee had heard Counsel, as well on Monday the 12th as on Tuesday the 13th, Wednesday the 14th, Thursday the 15th, Monday the 19th, Tuesday the 20th and Wednesday the 21st days of January last, upon the Petition and Appeal of Robert Stefan Majewski, of 34 Hertford End, Basildon in the County of Essex, praying, That the matter of the Order set forth in the Schedule thereto, namely, an Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) of the 15th of July 1975, might be reviewed before Her Majesty the Queen, in Her Court of Parliament, and that the said Order might be reversed, varied or altered, or that the Petitioner might have such other relief in the premises as to Her Majesty the Queen in Her Court of Parliament, might seem meet; and Counsel having been heard on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Respondent to the said Appeal; and due consideration had this day of what was offered on either side in this Cause:

It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in the Court of Parliament of Her Majesty the Queen assembled, That the said Order of Her Majesty's Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) of the 15th day of July 1975, complained of in the said Appeal, be, and the same is hereby, Affirmed, and that the said Petition and Appeal be, and the same is hereby, dismissed this House.

Lord Elwyn-Jones (Lord Chancellor)

My Lords,


Robert Stefan Majewski appeals against his conviction on 7th November 1973 at Chelmsford Crown Court on three counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and three counts of assault on a police constable in the execution of his duty. He was bound over to come up for judgment when called upon. On 5th December 1973 he was placed on probation for three years. Later he committed a further offence for which he was given an additional sentence of six months imprisonment for the original offences.


The appellant's case was that when the assaults were committed he was acting under the influence of a combination of drugs (not medically prescribed) and alcohol, to such an extent that he did not know what he was doing and that he remembered nothing of the incidents that had occurred. After medical evidence had been called by the defence as to the effect of the drugs and drink the appellant had taken, the learned judge, in the absence of the jury ruled that he would direct the jury in due course that on the charges of assault or assault occasioning actual bodily harm, the question of whether he had taken drink or drugs was immaterial. The learned judge directed the jury that in relation to an offence not requiring a specific intent, the fact that a man has induced in himself a state in which he is under the influence of drink and drugs, is no defence. Since the counts for assault did not require proof of any specific intent, the fact that the accused might have taken drink or drugs was irrelevant, provided the jury was satisfied that the state which he was in as a result of drink and drugs or a combination of both was self-induced. He concluded "… upon my direction in law you can ignore the subject of drink and drugs as being in any way a defence to any one or more of the counts in this Indictment". In dealing with assault, he directed that it meant some blow or kick, "not something which is purely accidental".


In view of the conclusion to which I have come that the appeal should be dismissed and of the questions of law which arise in the case, it is desirable that I should refer in some detail to the facts, which were largely undisputed. During the evening of 19th February 1973 the appellant and his friend, Leonard Stace, who had also taken drugs and drink, went to the Bull public house in Basildon. The appellant obtained a drink and sat down in the lounge bar at a table by the door. Stace became involved in a disturbance. Glasses were broken. The landlord asked Stace to leave and escorted him to the door. As he did so, Stace called to the appellant: "He's putting me out." The appellant got up and prevented the landlord from getting Stace out and abused him. The landlord told them both to go. They refused. The appellant butted the landlord in the face and bruised it, and punched a customer. The customers in the bar and the landlord forced the two out through the bar doors. They re-entered by forcing the outer door, a glass panel of which was broken by Stace. The appellant punched the landlord and pulled a piece of broken glass from the frame and started swinging it at the landlord and a customer, cutting the landlord slightly on his arm. Majewski then burst through the inner door of the bar with such force that he fell on the floor. The landlord held him there until the police arrived. The appellant was violent and abusive and spat in the landlord's face. When the police came, a fierce struggle took place to get him out. He shouted at the police:

"You pigs, I'll kill you all, you f… . pigs, you bastards."


P.C. Barkway said the appellant looked at him and kicked him deliberately.


P.C. Bird was kicked on the shins. During the struggle to get the appellant into the police car he said to P.C. Barrett: "You bastard, I'll get you" and then kicked him.


The appellant was placed in the cells of Basildon Police Station. The next morning Police Inspector Dickinson heard banging and saw the appellant in his cell trying to remove a metal flap under the bed platform. The Inspector asked him what he was doing. According to the Inspector he said: "Come in here and I will stripe you with this. I'll break your neck". The Inspector and other officers entered the cell. Before he was restrained, he struck the Inspector with the handcuffs on his wrists. Dr. Mitchell arrived and gave him an injection.


Cross-examined as to the appellant's condition that evening the publican said he seemed to have gone berserk, his eyes were a bit glazed and protruding. A customer said he was "glarey-eyed", and went "berserk" when the publican asked Stace to leave. He was screaming and shouting. A policeman said he was in a fearful temper.


The appellant gave evidence and said that on Saturday, 17th February 1973, he bought, not on prescription, about 440 Dexadrine tablets ("speeds") and early on Sunday morning consumed about half of them. That gave him plenty of energy until he "started coming down". He did not sleep throughout Sunday. On Monday evening at about 6 p.m. he acquired a bottle full of sodium nembutal tablets which he said were tranquillisers—"downers", "barbs" and took about 8 of them at about 6.30.


He and his friends then went to the Bull. He said he could remember nothing of what took place there save for a flash of recollection of Stace kicking a window. All he recollected of the police cell was asking the police to remove his handcuffs and then being injected.


In cross-examination he admitted he had been taking amphetamines and barbiturates, not on prescription, for two years, in large quantities. On occasions he drank barley wine or Scotch. He had sometimes "gone paranoid". This was the first time he had "completely blanked out".


Dr. Bird called for the defence, said that the appellant had been treated for drug addiction since November 1971. There was no history in his case of psychiatric disorder or diagnosable mental illness, but Majewski had a personality disorder. Dr. Bird said that barbiturates and alcohol are known to potentiate each other and to produce rapid intoxication and affect a person's awareness of what was going on. In the last analysis one could be rendered unconscious and a condition known at pathological intoxication can occur, but it is uncommon and there are usually well-marked episodes. It would be possible, but unlikely, to achieve a state of automatism as a result of intoxication with barbiturates and alcohol or amphetamines and alcohol. Aggressive behaviour is greater. After a concentration of alcohol and barbiturates it was not uncommon for "an amnesic patch" to ensue.


In cross-examination, Dr. Bird said he had never in practice come across a case of "pathological intoxication" and it is an unusual condition. It is quite possible that a person under the influence of barbiturates, amphetamines and alcohol or all three in combination may be able to form certain intentions and execute them, punching and kicking people, and yet afterwards be unable to remember anything about it. During such "disinhibited behaviour" he may do things which he would not do if he was not under the influence of the various sorts of drink and drugs about which evidence has been given.


In a statement Dr. Mitchell expressed the opinion that at the police station on the morning of 20th February, the appellant was completely out of control mentally and physically, which might have been due to "withdrawal symptoms".


The Court of Appeal ( [1975]3 W.L.R. 401) dismissed the appeal against conviction but granted leave to appeal to your Lordships' House certifying that the following point of law of general public importance was involved:

"Whether a defendant may properly be convicted of assault not-withstanding that, by reason of his self-induced intoxication, he did not intend to do the act alleged to constitute the assault".


The appeal raises issues of considerable public importance. In giving the judgment of the Court of Appeal Lawton L.J. rightly observed that "The facts...

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