The appellant had been having a relationship with a Mr Jones. Mr. Jones then took up with another woman Mrs Booth and they were soon to be married. On hearing this news, the appellant drove to Mrs Booth’s house at 2.00am and poured petrol through the letter box and ignited it with matches and newspaper. She then drove home and did not alert anyone of the incident. Mrs Booth and her young son managed to escape the fire but her two daughters were killed. The trial judge directed the jury:
“If you are satisfied that when the accused set fire to the house she knew that it was highly probable that this would cause (death or) serious bodily harm then the prosecution will have established the necessary intent.”
The jury convicted of murder. The conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal. The appellant appealed to the House of Lords on the grounds that knowledge that a certain consequence was a highly probable consequence does not establish an intent to produce that result but is only evidence from which a jury may infer intent.
The appellant’s conviction for murder was upheld as there was no misdirection.
Lord Hailsham’s dissent:
I do not believe that knowledge or any degree of foresight is enough. Knowledge or foresight is at the best material which entitles or compels a jury to draw the necessary inference as to intention.