Criminal Law – Intention – Where Do We Stand?

In a simple sense, information is simply processed, structured and organised information. It allows decision making and provides context for other data. For instance, a single consumer’s sale in a restaurant details about that consumer-all of which becomes information when the company is able to pin down the most popular, or least popular dish.

Information management is thus an aspect of information science, and like all aspects of scientific methodology, it is an ongoing process. This is because information systems need to be constantly updated to provide users with the much needed context for making decisions. This has created a new area of applied pragmatics, as practitioners of this discipline seek to improve the information management process itself. While details are now being settled, it is important to note that pragmatics also has its limits, and one of these limits concerns the nature of information itself. It is here that details themselves become information.

Consider, for example, the case of the Margarita. margaritas, by cultural definition, are Mexican drinks of creamy cream and fruit topped with either ice cubes or in some cases, actual alcohol. Given the very nature of these drinks, it can be seen as more than just another food-and as such it contains information about the ingredients, preparation methods and even the physical properties of the ingredients that make up the Margarita. By adopting a more physical approach to information, we could say that the Margarita is more of a ‘communication object’ than a food. When we talk about semiotics in this way, we are really talking about the relationship between the information contained within the information object (the Margarita) and the user of the information (the drinker). The drinker has a great many reasons to make use of the information contained in the object and in so doing they necessarily give voice to their own needs, motivations and so on.

In fact, there are two basic ways of thinking about information. One way is to think of it in terms of classical (classical in the scientific sense of the term) information theory. According to this view, information has a form in which it can be studied, understood and communicated, and this form is determined by the physical laws of science. This information theory postulates that reality is deterministic, and that there is nothing outside the physical universe that can account for the information found within it. According to this view, consciousness forms the fundamental basis for understanding the nature of reality, and the way in which it relates to other things and individuals. It also posits the conscious mind as the only medium through which information can be properly transmitted.

The other way of thinking about information, as it relates to the case of a criminal charge, is to regard it as information theory par excellence. According to this way of thinking about information, it is important to distinguish between what a defendant or person charged with a crime can do with it, and what the law allows him or her to do with it. The focus turns, first of all, to the intention with which a person carries out an act, whether it is a conscious one or not; the next is to the cognitive use to which the object is put after that intention.

An intention to commit a crime may have been manifested through actions so extensive that these acts could not be prevented even by the most carefully thought out and deliberated plan. On the other hand, an intention to use a weapon against an intruder who has entered the house uninvited could be sufficient to justify the use of that weapon against that intruder, notwithstanding that a good number of persons might not have been in the house at the time the act was performed. These facts do not undermine the power of the state to convict the accused for the commission of an act for which the criminal acted with an intention to commit, even if the act did not actually succeed in its execution. We would not, for example, condemn a person who kills another because the latter had a gun and fired at the man; just as we would not condemn a driver who killed a motorist because the driver saw a child crossing the road, or an operator who kills a victim because the operator thought the victim was a threat. We distinguish this on the basis that the intention to employ a dangerous instrument for the commission of an unlawful act is not an element of a crime, and is not within the province of the penal code whatever may be the circumstances.