What are the best candidate ‘material facts' of the case? Be as succinct and focused as you can. [10 marks]
Material facts are those imperative in the result of the issue, and are those which without, would impact the determination of the case. They describe only which is relevant to and affects the possible result of the case. In Hyam v DPP AC 55, the material facts are as follows:
The appellant (Hyam) had had a relationship with a man (Mr Jones), which ended when this man became engaged to another woman (Mrs Booth). In early morning on July 15, 1972, she went to the woman's house and poured petrol through her letter box, stuffed newspaper through and lit it. The appellant didn't alert the occupants of the house nor the authorities, and drove back to her home, 5 miles away. The newly engaged woman escaped from her house, as did her son, however her two daughters died and the appellant was subsequently charged with murder.
Her defence was that her intention for setting fire to the property was only to frighten the woman, with the hope she would leave the neighbourhood. She had also done other acts in attempts to scare this woman away, such as writing anonymous letters.
The trial judge (Ackner J) instructed the jury that the appellant would be guilty if she knew it was highly probable that her act would cause at least serious bodily harm, this would have to be known beyond any reasonable doubt.
The appellant was convicted of murder and her appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed. She appealed to the House of Lords, contending (i) that the knowledge that a certain consequence was a highly probable consequence did not establish an intent to produce that result, and (ii) that in order to sustain a convicted for murder it was necessary to prove an intent to kill or to endanger life and therefore intent to do serious bodily harm did not suffice.
2. What is/are the precise legal issue/s raised by the case? [10 marks]
The case of Hyam v DPP comprises of many legal issues, all of which revolve around the question of intent. For criminal liability to be imposed, intention must be present, thus making it important to find.
There is the question as to whether or not Hyam (the defendant) intended to cause grievous bodily harm in the first place. Whilst she did light the newspapers and push them through Mrs Brown's letter box, surely knowing and with the intention to set fire to the house, the appellant strongly refutes causing harm to be her intention, with her merely wanting Mrs Brown to leave the neighbourhood being the intention for this action. There is evidence that the appellant had wanted her to leave, through anonymous letters, which would support the argument that she did in fact want Mrs Brown to leave the area. However, whilst this confirms one intention, it does not rule out the possibility of a secondary intention of causing harm. Irrespectively though, the legal issue of where the Criminal Damage Act 1971 for damaging a property by arson, is undisputedly a chargeable offence, since the appellant must have foresaw this as a consequence.
The jury and the court of appeal found that a reasonable individual would foresee harm to all persons of the house and thus, it cannot be argued that the appellant did not foresee this risk. Although, another legal issue of this case, is foresight of the risk to whom. Since, it's argued Hyam did not have knowledge of other occupants in the house, and without knowledge there would not be intention. So, the question of if Hyam is responsible for the murder of Mrs Browns daughters is still an open issue. Hyam argued in her appeal that the charge should be changed from murder to manslaughter.
3. What is/are the ratio/nes decidendi of the case? [15 marks]
Ratio decidendi refers to that the part of the judgement which explains the reasons for the decision. The ratio decidendi for this case is more complex than typical cases, this due to the House of Lords ruling a 3 to 2 majority of guilty, with the three judges each using different reasoning