Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Famous cases in English Law 1: R v Collins (1973)

This is true.  This is an actual case taught to undergraduates who take criminal law.  It is an essential ingredient in understanding the way the courts treat the definition of burglary. 

I wonder, if this case were heard now, whether the outcome would be the same. 

It is the bit about the socks that most law students remember most vividly.

Case report

The defendant was charged with burglary. He had climbed a ladder to an open window where a young woman was sleeping naked in her bed. He descended the ladder, stripped down to his socks and then climbed up again. The woman awoke and saw him at the window. She thought it was her boyfriend and so invited him in. It was not clear, and neither party could recall whether he was inside or outside the window when she invited him in. They proceeded to have sexual intercourse. She then realised it was not her boyfriend and screamed for him to get off. He ran off. The following day he was questioned by the police and charged with burglary under s.9(1)(a) on the grounds that he entered as a trespasser with the intent to commit rape. (He could not be charged with rape as the woman had consented to sexual intercourse). The jury convicted. The defendant appealed on the grounds of a misdirection as the jury had not been asked to consider if he was a trespasser at the time of entry.


His conviction was quashed. It was held that there must be an effective and substantial entry with knowledge or being reckless as to being a trespasser. Consent of the home owner (the girl’s parents) was not required: it was sufficient that the girl had invited him in.

Lord Justice Edmund Davies:

“Unless the jury were entirely satisfied that the Appellant made an effective and substantial entry into the bedroom without the complainant doing or saying anything to cause him to believe that she was consenting to his entering it, he ought not to be convicted of the offence charged.”


5 responses to “Famous cases in English Law 1: R v Collins (1973)

  1. Paul Sharratt December 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    The other factor which made this case weird, if I remember correctly, was that the defendant stated that he didn’t care whether or not the girl was going to consent at the time he went in through the window (which itself sounds a bit like a double entendre…) I think were the case to come up today he would undoubtedly be convicted of something or other brought in by the Blair government which didn’t like people having sex at all.

  2. emma johnson December 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    “Sex by misadventure” (although this sounds more like the verdict of an inquest), or “It’s all part of growing up and being British”

  3. emma johnson December 12, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Are you sure this isn’t the lost script from “Carry On up the Drainpipe”?

  4. wthirskgaskill December 12, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    The fact that it is true is what makes it. I collect things like this in order to embolden myself when writing fiction. As I said, it is the bit about the socks that seemed to ignite the most debate when my parents moved in legal circles. I will be posting another case soon, but I don’t know of any others which are as memorable as this one.

  5. Miriam February 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Thanks for directing me to this. I wrote my twitter story without knowing about it, but I did once see a comedy programme, in which a tramp was let in to a fancy dress party because they thought it was his costume.

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