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Director of Public Prosecutions v. Morgan

Citation. 2 All E.R. 347 (H.L. 1975).
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Brief Fact Summary.

Defendants were accused of aiding and abetting rape. The victim was the wife of one of Defendants.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Defendant must possess a reasonable belief to assert mistake of fact as negating the intent required for the crime.


Morgan, one of the Defendants was the husband of the victim. Their marriage had been on poor terms. On the night in question, Morgan brought the three other Defendants to his house. Each Defendant had intercourse with the victim. Defendants allege that Morgan told them that his wife would pretend to resist but was a voluntary participant. At the trial court level, Morgan was sentenced to 10 years and the rest of Defendants to four years.


What is the appropriate standard for a Defendant to successfully assert mistake of fact to negate the intent necessary for the crime.


Affirmed. No reasonable jury could have failed to convict all four Defendants.
When an accused challenges the intent or state of mind requirement of the crime alleged, under a mistake of fact claim, his belief must have been based on reasonable grounds.

If this case was under American law, the scope of a mistake of fact claim is limited. An honest mistake is insufficient; the mistake must be bona fide and reasonable.

The burden of asserting a mistake of fact lies with the Defendant, once evidence sufficient to raise the issue is in consideration, the prosecution must negate the mistake of fact.


Each Justice in his part of the opinion focused the discussion around whether Defendant could have believed that the victim was a voluntary participant. No justice focused on the woman’s state of mind or actions she took to manifest a lack of consent. Although the justices agreed that the instruction to the jury was erroneous, they found that no reasonable jury could have found other than to convict.

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