Regina v. Cunningham,

2 Q.B. 396 (1957)

Facts

Cunningham (D) was engaged to be married and his prospective mother in law, Mrs. Wade, was the tenant of a split house with one side unoccupied but was to be occupied by D after his marriage. D was out of work and needed money, so he went to the unoccupied portion of the house and tore out the gas meter. D did not turn off the gas at the available shut off valve, and a considerable volume escaped and seeped into the next-door home and partially asphyxiated Mrs. Wade and endangered her life. D admitted to the larceny when questioned by the police. D was indicted for violating Section 23 of the Offenses against the Person Act. This act made it a felony to unlawfully and maliciously administer poison to a person or cause poison to be administered to a person so as to endanger the person’s life. D suggested that some type of mens rea was necessary for the malicious bodily harm and the trial court rejected that argument. The trial judge instructed the jury that the term malicious meant wicked. The conviction was appealed; the trial judge erroneously instructed the jury as to the meaning of malicious.