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Why R v Pembleton is important

R v Pembleton shows that, whilst a defendant’s mens rea can be transferred from one victim to another, the doctrine of transferred malice cannot apply to different crimes.


Pembleton threw a rock into a crowd intending for it to hit someone. However, the rock missed everyone in the crowd and instead smashed a window. It was argued that his intention in throwing the rock into the crowd could be transferred to the outcome of smashing the window.

Conviction at Issue

Pembleton was charged with criminal damage of the window. This offence required the defendant to intend to cause property damage.

Issue facing the Court

Whether the defendant’s intention to commit one crime could be transferred to the actual commission of another crime where the actus reus is different.


The defendant was found not guilty of criminal damage.

The Court held the doctrine of transferred malice could not apply. Pemleton’s mens rea was for an offence against the person, not to commit any property offence. As these are entirely different offences, the doctrine of transferred malice could not be applied.

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AG Reference (No.3 of 1994)

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