Regina v Hill and Hall: CACD 1989

The defendants were separately tried for possession of an article with intent to damage property contrary to section 3. In each case the article in question was a hacksaw blade and it was the prosecution case that each of the applicants intended to use one to cut part of the perimeter fence of a United States Naval Facility. The defence in each case was one of lawful excuse. It was put forward that the actions were aimed at forcing the United Kingdom to abandon nuclear weapons; thereby saving their own property and that of their neighbours from destruction. The trial judges directed the jury to convict on the basis, first, that the causative relationship between the acts and the alleged protection was so tenuous and nebulous the acts could not, objectively, have amounted to protection. On applications for leave to appeal against conviction it was contended that the test was a subjective one and that it should have been left to the jury as a question of fact as to what in each case the applicant believed. A further point was taken that the judge had been wrong to direct the jury to convict.
Held: The appeal failed. The objective of protection was far too remote from the intended damage to the defence establishment.
Lord Lane LCJ said: ‘There are two aspects to this type of question. The first aspect is to decide what it was that the applicant in this case, Valerie Hill, in her own mind thought. The learned judge assumed, and so do we, for the purposes of this decision, that everything she said about her reasoning was true. I have already perhaps given a sufficient outline of what it was she believed to demonstrate what is meant by that. Up to that point the test was subjective. In other words one is examining what is going on in the applicant’s mind . . Having done that the judges in the present cases and the judge particularly in the case of Valerie Hill turned to the second aspect of the case and that is this. He had to decide as a matter of law, which means objectively, whether it could be said that on those facts as believed by the applicant, snipping the strand of wire, which she intended to do, could amount to something done to protect either the applicant’s own home or the home of her adjacent friends in Pembrokeshire. . . . He decided again quite rightly in our view that that proposed act on her part was far too remote from the eventual aim at which she was targeting her actions to satisfy the test.’
. . And ‘The second half of the question was that of the immediacy of the danger. Here the wording of the Act, one reminds oneself, is as follows: She believed that ‘the property . . was in immediate need of protection . . Once again the judge had to determine whether, on the facts as stated by the applicant, there was any evidence on which it could be said that she believed there was a need of protection from immediate danger. In our view that must mean evidence that she believed that immediate action had to be taken to do something which would otherwise be a crime in order to prevent the immediate risk of something worse happening. The answers which I have read in the evidence given by this woman (and the evidence given by the other applicant was very similar) drives this Court to the conclusion, as they drove the respective judges to the conclusion, that there was no evidence on which it could be said that there was that belief.’


Lord Lane LCJ


[1989] 89 Cr App R 74


Criminal Damage Act 1971 3


England and Wales


ApprovedRegina v Hunt CACD 1978
The defendant had been charged with setting fire to a guest room in an old people’s home. He claimed that he had done so to draw attention to a defective fire alarm system. He sought to set up a statutory defence under section 5(2) by claiming to . .

Cited by:

CitedKelleher, Regina v CACD 20-Nov-2003
The defendant, out of strong conviction, entered an art gallery and knocked the head from a statue of Margaret Thatcher.
Held: The court examined the breadth of the defence of ‘lawful excuse’ to a charge of criminal damage, and whether a court . .
CitedRegina v Jones (Margaret), Regina v Milling and others HL 29-Mar-2006
Domestic Offence requires Domestic Defence
Each defendant sought to raise by way of defence of their otherwise criminal actions, the fact that they were attempting to prevent the commission by the government of the crime of waging an aggressive war in Iraq, and that their acts were . .
CitedChamberlain v Lindon Admn 18-Mar-1998
The appellant challenged the dismissal of his private prosecution of the defendant in destroying a new garden wall. The magistrates had found a lawful excuse in that the defendant said that the wall had been constructed to obstruct his private right . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 06 May 2022; Ref: scu.222707