Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary
Intention is the purpose or design with which an act is done. It is the fore-knowledge of the act, coupled with the desire to do it, such fore-knowledge and desire being the cause of the act. Intention may not necessarily involve expectation. Intention is the foresight of a desired issue, however improbable, and not eh foresight of an undesired issue, however probable. If X fires a rifle in the direction of a man at a great distance, X might very well know that chances of hitting him are desires to do so. In the same way, expectation also does not amount to intention. A doctor operating on a patient might expect that the operation might result in the death of the patient; yet he does not intend the death of the patient. He intends, in fact, to cure the patient by such operation. Very often, one may intend a thing, not for its own sake, but as a means to an end.
A very important ingredient of criminal liability is that the wrongdoer must have a guilty mind. The term guilty mind is very general, but in jurisprudence, it is understood in a technical sense. The guilty mind that constitutes a condition of liability might be intention, negligence or sometimes even knowledge, which almost always indicates intention; but this does not mean that there should be any general kind of guilty which does not come under intention, negligence or knowledge.
The definitions of many criminal offences include terms relating to the ‘intention’ of the perpetrator. For example, to a large extent, the distinction between murder and manslaughter corresponds to the distinction between ‘intending’ and act and ‘recklessly allowing’ it to happen. Intention is not usually defined; instead, it is frequently for the jury to decide, as a matter of fact, whether the accused had the intention to carry out the act charged. In most cases, it is argued, juries need no help in understanding the term. But consider this case: a man sets fire to his restaurant in the busiest part of the day, in the hope of profiting from an insurance payout. Naturally, many people die. Does the perpetrator ‘intend’ to kill them? Clearly he would have foreseen the likelihood that his actions would lead to death or injury, and accepted that this was the likely outcome. Even though he did not purposefully kill his customers, the restauranteur purposely carried out an act that led to their deaths, in full knowledge of the likelihood of this eventuality.
In general, intention is different from ‘motivation’ or ‘desire’. However earnestly I desire the deaths of TV game show hosts, I do not necessarily ‘intend’ to kill them. While almost everyone is agreed that if I expressly set out to kill TV game show hosts, then I have ‘intention’ to kill them. This is called ‘direct intention’. However, ‘intention’ in law is not as narrow as this. At the opposite end of the ‘intention scale,’ it is argued that I intend some consequences if it is likely that my actions will have those consequences. Over the last thirty years, the meaning of intention has varied between these two extremes.
At present the position on intention appears to be as follows: if the accused carries out action A, with consequence C, then
Note that the meaning of ‘intention’ is also contentious in the law of tort; see, for example, Trespass to the person.
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This glossary post was last updated: 6th April, 2020 | 9 Views.