Giannotti was convicted of murder, the evidence establishing "beyond all possible doubt" that he had killed the victim on the verandah of her house. He appealed contending that the judge had misdirected the jury, the trial judge having said "an accused is presumed to intend the natural consequences of his action" and that "this presumption may be rebutted by evidence".
- What is the role of inferences in fixing criminal culpability?
Appeal allowed, new trial ordered.
Roach, writing for the court, states that we should not discuss presumptions so lightheartedly; the judge should only have told the jury that the accused might intend the natural consequences of his act. This is a presumption that can be drawn, but it does not have to be. To draw this presumption automatically makes an inference that implies mens rea on Giannotti, which goes against the presumption of innocence. The jury can infer this, but they must do so on the basis of evidence.
One cannot make any presumptions or inferences in criminal law unless they are supported by evidence; to do so would be counter to the presumption of innocence.