Should the law on voluntary intoxication and criminal liability be reformed in Hong Kong?

Research output: Other contributionpeer-review


The application of criminal justice upon those who commit offences contrary to law is usually regarded as being imposed only upon those who are considered to have the mental capacity which should allow them to understand the difference between right and wrong, or at least to be in a position to understand the law. This is reflected in the fact that most criminal offences require the defendant to have fulfilled a certain state of mind (or mens rea) before committing the actus reus of the offence in question, be that intent to do the act or omission, or to be reckless as to the result (crimes of specific or basic intent).

For this reason, the criminal laws of many different jurisdictions, including common-law jurisdictions such as that in Hong Kong, in England, and in Australia, allow for some defences to criminal liability to be raised by defendants to assert that their mental capacity was, at the time at which the actus reus of the offence was committed, impaired. One area which has caused significant difficulties over the years is whether intoxication should constitute one of these defences, and if so, whether this should apply only to cases of involuntary intoxication, or also voluntary intoxication.

This essay explores whether or not the criminal law on voluntary intoxication should be reformed in Hong Kong, and if so, why.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherThe Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2021


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