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R v Latimer – 1886

March 19, 2024
Micheal James

Jurisdiction / Tag(s): UK Law

Introduction to R v Latimer:

R v Latimer (1886) is a landmark case in criminal law that deals with the concept of transferred malice. This case study aims to provide an in-depth analysis of R v Latimer, including its background, legal issues, court proceedings, judgment, impact, controversies, and significance within criminal law jurisprudence.


R v Latimer originated from a criminal prosecution following an altercation where the defendant, Latimer, intended to strike one person but instead struck another. The case unfolded during the late 19th century against a backdrop of evolving legal standards in criminal liability. Latimer found himself accused of assault, raising questions about the doctrine of transferred malice.

Facts of the Case:

The facts of R v Latimer revolve around an incident where Latimer aimed to strike a man with a belt but inadvertently struck a woman instead. The prosecution argued that Latimer’s intent to harm the man transferred to the woman, leading to her injury. The defense contended that Latimer did not intend to harm the woman and therefore should not be held liable for assault.

Legal Issues:

At the heart of R v Latimer were complex legal issues concerning transferred malice and the principles of criminal liability. The key question was whether Latimer’s intent to harm one person could be transferred to another, holding him responsible for the resulting injury, even if unintended.

Court Proceedings:

The trial proceedings involved a detailed examination of evidence and legal arguments presented by both the prosecution and the defense. The prosecution sought to establish Latimer’s guilt by demonstrating that his intent to harm the man transferred to the woman, resulting in her injury. The defense countered by arguing that Latimer’s intent did not extend to the woman, and therefore, he should not be held criminally liable for her injury.


After careful deliberation, the court rendered its judgment in R v Latimer. The court held that Latimer’s intent to harm the man transferred to the woman, making him criminally liable for her injury. The court’s decision emphasized the principle of transferred malice, holding defendants responsible for the unintended consequences of their actions if the original intent is malicious.

Impact and Significance:

R v Latimer has had a significant impact on criminal law jurisprudence, particularly in shaping the doctrine of transferred malice. The case clarified the principles governing criminal liability in cases where the defendant’s intent is directed toward one person but results in harm to another. It underscored the importance of holding individuals accountable for the foreseeable consequences of their actions, even if unintended.

The principles elucidated in R v Latimer continue to serve as a guiding precedent for subsequent cases involving transferred malice and criminal liability. Its legacy extends beyond its immediate context, influencing judicial decisions and legislative reforms aimed at ensuring justice and accountability in cases involving unintended harm.

Critique and Controversies:

Despite its significance, R v Latimer has faced criticism and controversy. Some legal scholars have raised questions about the fairness and proportionality of holding defendants criminally liable for unintended consequences. Debates have ensued regarding the appropriate application of the doctrine of transferred malice and its implications for criminal liability.


In conclusion, R v Latimer (1886) stands as a pivotal case in criminal law, offering important insights into the doctrine of transferred malice. Through its meticulous analysis of the facts and legal issues, this case study provides a comprehensive understanding of the complexities inherent in cases involving unintended harm. As legal practitioners and scholars continue to grapple with the intricacies of criminal liability.

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