Can the Law convict you on the basis of a mere intention you might have to commit a crime? If so, how is intention to be proved? The game-changing Case in this context is Regina vs Shivpuri. ' The appellant, on a visit to India, was approached by a man named Desai, who offered to pay him £1,000 if, on his return to England, he would receive a suitcase which a courier would deliver to him containing packages of drugs which the appellant was then to distribute according to instructions he would receive. The suitcase was duly delivered to him in Cambridge. On 30 November 1982, acting on instructions, the appellant went to Southall station to deliver a package of drugs to a third party. Outside the station he and the man he had met by appointment were arrested. A package containing a powdered substance was found in the appellant's shoulder bag. At the appellant's flat in Cambridge, he produced to customs officers the suitcase from which the lining had been ripped out and the remaining packages of the same powdered substance. In answer to questions by customs officers and in a long written statement the appellant made what amounted to a full confession of having played his part, as described, as recipient and distributor of illegally imported drugs. The appellant believed the drugs to be either heroin or cannabis. In due course the powdered substance in the several packages was scientifically analysed and found not to be a controlled drug but snuff or some similar harmless vegetable matter.
What is interesting about this case is that if the appellant had simply kept silent when arrested, the prosecution would have had no case. Everything hinged on his mental intention (mens rea) and his testimony alone could convict him.
Every idiot knows one keeps schtum when arrested. One is actually cautioned to do just that.
Was Shivpuri an idiot?
Let us weigh up the evidence.
Shivpuri, a journalist, photographer and documentary film-maker, was a mature student of Law at SOAS. As such, he may well have believed that his confession could not be used against him as it was a case of 'impossible attempt'.
This argument holds if Shivpuri already knew the supposed drugs were no such thing. Perhaps, as a journalist, he was carrying out a 'sting' operation. Indeed, this is the explanation he gave me of his conduct.
Interestingly, it was the Utilitarian Legal scholar, Glanville Williams who tipped the Court against Shivpuri and the doctrine of 'impossible attempt'. Intentions refer to intentionality, intentionality in so far as it is inter-subjective is strategic. Utiltarianism can't cope. That's why it's simply fucked in the head and neither 'God's law nor dog's law' but simply bad puppy law.
But, and this is the crux of the matter, perhaps Shivpuri himself (who has no other convictions and was certainly not a louche character- he co-authored a book with the theologian Jim Garrison) in equal obedience to the Schopenhauerian Will- which, why not?, is Utilitarian, being fucking worthless and fundamentally Evil- made his own signal contribution to the law the only way he could- viz. by being so stupidly convicted.
Is there a point to this blog post? Yes. Utilitarianism sucks ass big time. It throws away information. Also, don't study law at SOAS. That's just silly.