In the case of Regina v. Faulkner (13 Cox Crim. Cas. 550 (1877)), a sailor was below
deck trying to steal some rum. He lit a match to see better, dropped it into
the barrel of rum, and started a fire which burned the entire ship.
The Appellate Court overturned
the conviction, saying that in order to constitute an offense, the act
done must be in fact intentional and willful in itself. Faulker was
intentionally trying to steal some rum, and could be prosecuted for that,
but he was not acting recklessly in lighting the match, nor did he intentionally
burn the ship.
Basically, if an accident
occurs during the commission of a crime, the defendant is not guilty for
the accident, just the crime itself.
The Appellate Court did not agree with the prosecution's contention that
"the defendant, being engaged in the commission of, or in an attempt
to commit a felony, was criminally responsible for every result that was
occasioned thereby, even though it was not a probable consequence of his
act or such as he could have reasonably foreseen or intended."
Should Faulkner, who burned
the ship by accident, be subject to the same penalties as someone who
burned the ship on purpose?
The Model Penal Code gives very specific definitions for certain
terms to make it easier for courts to interpret Statutes.
The decision in this case
about the level of culpability would probably be the equivalent of criminally
negligent under the Model Penal