Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Does mistaken belief also signify criminal intent in relation to criminal offences?

Dawson J in He Kaw Teh v The Queen (1985) 157 CLR 523; 60 ALR 449; 15 A Crim R 203, said that because intent forms part of a crime in common law, it is up to the prosecution to prove that a “mistaken belief in facts which are inconsistent with the required intent does not have to be based upon reasonable grounds. Either the accused has a guilty mind or he does not, and if an honest belief, whether reasonable or not, points to the absence of the required intent, then the prosecution fails to prove its case.”

In offences where specific intent is relevant and admissible, then it becomes personal to an accused, and in Schultz v The Queen [1982] WAR 171; (1981) 5 A Crim R 234 (CCA), Burt CJ said the following:

“[I]n my opinion the evidence was relevant and, when led by the appellant, admissible. Once it be acknowledged that there is no legal presumption that a man intends the probable consequences of his acts and that in every case the finding to be made is specifically and exclusively as to the intention of a particular person at a particular moment of time, then, as it seems to me, all facts personal to the person concerned which have bearing or which in the judgment of reasonable men may have bearing upon the operation of his mind are relevant to that finding.”


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