The defendant had been accused of attempting to import controlled drugs, but the substances actually found were not in fact a controlled drug, though he had believed and intended them to be. He appealed saying that he should not be conviced of an attempt where the a completion of the intended act would not have een a crime.
Held: His appeal failed. The actus reus of the offence of attempt required an act which was more than merely preparatory to the commission of offence and which the defendant did with the intention of committing an offence, notwithstanding that the commission of the actual offence was on the true facts impossible. He really intended to evade the prohibition on the importation of drugs; his mistake was merely as to the content of the packages. The court could depart from its earlier decision in Anderton despite its being so recent. The distinction previously drawn between ‘objectively innocent’ acts and others could not be sustained.
Lord Bridge said: ‘It follows from this, applying the reasoning in R v Courtie that each of the three distinct offences has different ingredients and, leaving aside considerations of impossibility arising under the Criminal Attempts Act 1981, part of the actus reus of the offence which must be proved in each case is the importation, actual or attempted, of goods which were in fact of the appropriate category to sustain the offence charged. So far the argument seems to be irrefutable and is not challenged by the Crown.’ and ‘It is the next step in the argument which is the critical one. If each of the three offences involves proof of a different element as part of the actus reus, that is importation of the appropriate category of prohibited goods, it follows, so it is submitted, that ‘knowingly’ wherever it appears in section 170(1) and (2) of the Act of 1979 connotes a corresponding mens rea, that is, knowledge of the importation of goods in the appropriate category. I recognise the force of this submission. The point may be put in the form of a rhetorical question. Can it be supposed that Parliament intended that the mens rea appropriate to an offence carrying a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment should equally be sufficient to sustain a conviction for an offence carrying a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment?’ He explained the history of the 1971 Act: ‘The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 repealed the earlier legislation and enacted a new and comprehensive code intended, one may reasonably suppose, to arm the courts with all the criminal sanctions they would need to counter the growing drugs problem.
Section 8 brought together a number of offences capable of being committed by the occupier or manager of premises and somewhat broadened their scope. ‘
Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone L.C., Lord Elwyn-Jones, Lord Scarman, Lord Bridge of Harwich and Lord Mackay of Clashfern
 2 WLR 988,  UKHL 2,  1 All ER 334,  AC 1
Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 170(1)(b), Criminal Attempts Act 1981 1, Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
England and Wales
Cited – Regina v Hennessey (Timothy) CACD 1978
The court considered the obligations of the prosecution on disclosure. The courts must: ‘keep in mind that those who prepare and conduct prosecutions owe a duty to the courts to ensure that all relevant evidence of help to an accused is either led . .
Cited – Regina v Hyam HL 1974
The defendant had burnt down the house of her rival in love, thereby killing her children. The judge directed the jury to convict the defendant of murder if she knew that it was highly probable that her act would cause death or serious bodily harm. . .
Cited – Haughton v Smith, On Appeal From Regina v Smith (Roger) HL 21-Nov-1973
The defendant appealed against his conviction for attempting to handle stolen goods. They were to be delivered to him in a van, but the meat was intercepted and recovered by the police. The defendant argued that he should not be convicted of . .
Cited – Regina v Courtie HL 1984
The House considered how to frame an indictment in a case of buggery where the prescribed punishment differed depending on the particular factual ingredients.
Held: Lord Diplock said: ‘Where it is provided by a statute that an accused person’s . .
Cited – Regina v Hussain CACD 1969
The only mens rea necessary for proof of any offence of importing drugs was the knowledge that the goods were subject to a prohibition on importation. The accused must know ‘that what is on foot is the evasion of a prohibition against importation . .
Overruled – Anderton v Ryan HL 9-May-1985
The defendant was found in possession of a video recorder. She refused to name the source, but admitted that she believed it to be stolen. After it became clear that there was no evidence that it was in fact stolen, she was convicted of attempting . .
Applied – Practice Statement (Judicial Precedent) HL 1966
The House gave guidance how it would treat an invitation to depart from a previous decision of the House. Such a course was possible, but the direction was not an ‘open sesame’ for a differently constituted committee to prefer their views to those . .
Cited – Regina v Bett CACD 12-Oct-1998
A conviction under section 8(b) for permitting premises to be used for the supply of controlled drugs was correct without evidence of knowledge of the particular drug supplied even though particular drugs were named in the indictments. The section . .
Cited – Salmon and Moore v Her Majesty’s Advocate HCJ 13-Nov-1998
The court considered the burden of proof placed on the prosecution under s28 of the 1971 Act.
Held: ‘Subsections (2) and (3) of Section 28 are both designed to come into play at a stage when the Crown have proved all that they need to prove in . .
Cited – I v Director of Public Prosecutions etc HL 8-Mar-2001
A group of youths carried petrol bombs in public, anticipating a confrontation with another group. They did not brandish them or actually threaten anybody. On dispersal by the police the bombs were dropped. On being charged with affray it was held . .
Cited – Regina v Gulbir Rana Singh CACD 18-Dec-2003
The defendant appealed conviction on three counts of conspiracy to launder money. The prosecution said that he and his co-accused engaged in money laundering between June 1999 and March 2000. Each count alleged that he and his co-conspirators . .
Cited – Harmer v Regina CACD 21-Jan-2005
The appellant and a co-defendant were charged with conspiracy to launder property which they had reasonable grounds to suspect was the proceeds of drug trafficking or other criminal conduct. The prosecution accepted that they could not establish . .
Cited – James, Regina v; Regina v Karimi CACD 25-Jan-2006
The defendants appealed their convictions for murder, saying that the court had not properly guided the jury on provocation. The court was faced with apparently conflicting decision of the House of Lords (Smith) and the Privy Council (Holley).
Updated: 10 October 2021; Ref: scu.178043