Director of Public Prosecutions v Smith: HL 1960

The defendant tried to avoid arrest and killed a policeman by driving off with the policeman clinging to the car.
Held: (1) The defendant committed murder because death or grievous bodily harm was foreseen by him as a ‘likely’ result of his act and (2) he was deemed to have foreseen the risk a reasonable person in his position would have foreseen.
Vicount Kilmuir LC said: ‘My Lords I confess that whether one is considering the crime of murder or the statutory offence I can find no warrant for giving the words ‘grievous bodily harm’ a meaning other than that which the words convey in their ordinary natural meaning. ‘Bodily harm’ needs no explanation, and ‘grievous’ means no more and no less than ‘really serious’. In this connection your Lordships will refer to the judgment of the Supreme Court of Victoria in the case of R.v.Miller [1951] VLR 346, 357). In giving the judgment of the Court, Martin J, having expressed the view that the directions of Willes J could only be justified, if at all, in the case of the statutory offence said: ‘. . . there does not appear to be any justification for treating the expression ‘grievous bodily harm’ or the other similar expressions used in the authorities upon this common law question which are cited as bearing any other than their ordinary and natural meaning.’ In my opinion the view of the law thus expressed by Martin J is correct and I would only add that I can see no ground for giving the words a wider meaning when considering the statutory offence.’


Vicount Kilmuir LC


[1960] 3 All ER 161, [1960] 3 WLR 546, [1961] AC 290


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedRegina v Brown (Anthony); Regina v Lucas; etc HL 11-Mar-1993
The appellants had been convicted of assault, after having engaged in consensual acts of sado-masochism in which they inflicted varying degreees of physical self harm. They had pleaded guilty after a ruling that the prosecution had not needed to . .
CitedRegina v Woollin HL 2-Apr-1998
The defendant appealed against his conviction for the murder of his child. He had thrown the child to the floor, hitting the head. He said that he had not intended to kill the child.
Held: On a murder charge, where the short direction on . .
CitedFook, Regina v CACD 22-Oct-1993
The defendant appealed his conviction for assault. He had suspected a lodger of theft, and was accused of having assaulted him while interrogating him about it. He locked the complainant in his room, but he then fell whilst escaping through a first . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Majewski HL 1976
The defendant took a cocktail of drink and drugs and, whilst intoxicated, assaulted pub landlord. He said that he did not know what he was doing, and had no mens rea, that self-induced intoxication could be a defence to a charge of assault, and that . .
Not good lawRhodes v OPO and Another SC 20-May-2015
The mother sought to prevent a father from publishing a book about her child’s life. It was to contain passages she said may cause psychological harm to the 12 year old son. Mother and son lived in the USA and the family court here had no . .
CitedBM, Regina v CACD 22-Mar-2018
The defendant appealed from a preliminary ruling that his body modification services were not in law capable of being consented to and therefore amounted to an assault.
Held: The appeal failed: ‘we can see no good reason why body modification . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 29 May 2022; Ref: scu.180944