Intention revisited: The Legacy of Glanville Williams

Antony Duff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: debating intention During the 1980s some of us, including Glanville Williams, were exercised about the role of intention in criminal law – about how the criminal law should define intention, and the role that intention as thus defined should play in determining criminal liability. Several factors, three of which should be noted here, contributed to this interest. First, the Law Commission produced a Report on the Mental Element in Crime, as well as two draft criminal codes, each of which included a general part that defined relevant mens rea terms. The Report distinguished ‘actually intend[ing]’ a result (not further defined) from having ‘no substantial doubt’ that a result would ensue, but recommended that in either case the agent ‘should be regarded as intending’ the result. The first draft code, produced for the Commission by a small group of academics, distinguished acting ‘purposely’ in relation to an element of an offence from acting ‘intentionally’: a purposive agent ‘wants [the element] to exist or occur’ an intentional agent need only be ‘aware’, or ‘almost certain’ that it exists or will exist or occur. The second draft code, which was the Commission’s own, reverted to the kind of definition favoured in the Report: ‘purpose’ was dropped; intentional agency was defined in terms of hoping or knowing that a circumstance exists or will exist, and of acting ‘in order’ to bring a result about or ‘being aware that it will occur in the ordinary course of events’. These definitions set the scene for continuing uncertainty and confusion about the scope of intention in the criminal law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law: The Legacy of Glanville Williams
Subtitle of host publicationThe Legacy of Glanville Williams
EditorsDennis J. Baker, Jeremy Horder
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9781139104159
ISBN (Print)9781107020474
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010


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