Actus Reus

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  • Created by: claris.x
  • Created on: 12-01-18 10:58
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  • Actus Reus
    • Voluntary act
      • In order for actus reus to be committed, it must be voluntary. If the defendant has no control over his or her actions, and it is involuntary, then the actus reus has not been committed. An example of an involuntary act may be the defendant hitting a person due to a muscle spasm.
      • R v Mitchell (1983) - D tried to push his way into a queue at a post office. A 72-year-old man told him off and D punched the man, who staggered backwards into an 89-year-old woman who was knocked over and injured, late dying of her injuries. D convicted of manslaughter and the man who fell was not liable for any criminal act.
    • 'State of affairs'
      • The actus reus can be a state of affairs for which the D is responsible. This can be holding a weapon in public. The D doesn't have to use it or have any intention on using it to be liable for the offence.
      • R v Larsonneur (1933) - D ordered to leave the UK so she decided to go to Ireland. Irish police deported her back to the UK, where she was arrested immediately and charged with being an illegal alien, refusing to leave the land an being found on UK grounds. It did not matter that she was deported back against her will.
    • Omissions
      • The normal rule is that an omission cannot make a person guilty of an offence, with some exceptions, which are: a statutory duty, a contractual duty, a duty because of a relationship, a voluntary duty, a duty through official position and a duty because of a chain of events set in motion.
      • Statutory duty - an Act of Parliament can create liability for an omission. E.g., the offences of failing to stop or report a road traffic accident (s 170 of Road Traffic Act 1988).
      • Contractual duty - this is where someone with a contractual duty fails to do something that is within their contract. For example, a lifeguard leaving his post in a pool unattended, which would make him guilty of an offence if a swimmer was injured or drowned.
        • R v Pittwood (1902) - a railway crossing keeper didn't shut the gates, so a person crossing was truck and killed by a train. The keeper was then guilty of manslaughter as he failed to do his contractual duty, which resulted in death.
      • Duty because of a relationship - usually a parent-child relationship as it's a parent's duty to care for young children. A parent neglecting a child can be liable to an offence due to this type of omission.
        • R v Gibbins and Proctor (1918) - father of 7-year-old girl lived with a partner, the father had seven children from earlier marriage. Both kept the girl separate from the other children and deliberately starved her to death. Both convicted of murder as the father had a duty of care because he was his father and the partner had a voluntary duty to take care of her.
      • Voluntary duty of care - when somebody has voluntarily chosen to take care of someone they are then responsible for their failure to act. This doesn't mean, however, that a person is charged if they are physically unable to, for instance, feed someone, which led to that person's death, but if the person has agreed to take care of someone, then gotten sick of it.
        • R v Gibbins and Proctor (1918) also links to voluntary duty as the father's partner has voluntarily agreed to take care of the child.
        • R v Stone and Dobinson (1977) - Stone's elderly sister came to live with Ds. She often failed to eat. She eventually became bedridden and incapable of caring for herself. Dobinson would occasionally wash her and prepare food for her. She eventually died from malnutrition and both charged with manslaughter as Stone has duty of care for her sister and Dobinson had a voluntary duty to care for her.
        • R v Evans (2009) - V, aged 16, heroin addict, lived with mum and older half-sister. Sister (D) bought some heroin and gave it to V who self-injected. Later became obvious V overdosed and neither sister nor mother saught medical attention, but put her to bed and hoped she'd recover. She died. Both mum and D convicted of gross negligence manslaughter as mum owed duty of care as she was her daughter. D appealed, claiming she didn't owe duty of care to her sister but conviction upheld because she had created a state of affairs which she must have known was life threatening to V.
      • Duty through official position - this is when someone has a duty set out through their position, for example, as a police officer.
        • R v Dytham (1979) - D police officer on duty. Saw V being thrown out of nightclub 30 yards from where standing. Following throw out, V in fight where kicked to death. D took no steps to intervene or get help and when fight was over, D told bystander he was going off duty and left scene. D convicted of misconduct in a public office. As Dytham police officer, he had a duty which he neglected to perform.
      • Duty because the defendant set in motion a chain of events - this is where the defendant owes a duty because he or she started a chain of events.
        • R v Miller (1983) - D living in a squat, fell asleep smoking cigarette. Awoke to find mattress on fire but didn't try to put it out but went into another room and fell back asleep. The house caught fire and D convicted of arson. Wasn't mattress fire which made D guilty, but fact that he failed to take reasonable steps as the fire was not too dangerous for him to try and put out.
        • DPP v Santa-Bermudez (2003) - policewoman, before searching D's pockets, asked him if he had any needles/sharp objects which he said 'no' to. Police injured by needle which caused bleeding. D convicted with assault occasioning actual bodily harm under s 47 of Offences Against the Person Act 1861 as he failed to tell police that he had the needle, which caused a chain of events leading to injury.


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