Criminal Law

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  • Criminal law
    • Elements of a crime: actus reus (physical element) + mens rea (mental element) = offence
      • Actus reus can be...
        • A 'state of affairs' for which he defendant is responsible. E.g. having an offensive weapon in a public place (s1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953)
        • An act, but it must be voluntary (so the d had control over their actions). In Hill V Baxter 1958, the court gave examples of when a driver could not be said to be driving voluntarily - driver lost control because he was stung by a swarm of bees, struck on the head by a stone, or had heart attack when driving.
          • The act can also been involuntary when the defendant hits someone else because of a reflex action or muscle spasm, or when a person is pushed into someone else.
            • e.g. R V Mitchell 1983 - the defendant punched a man who fell into a woman who was knocked over and she died. The man who had been punched was not liable.
          • There are some rare occasions when the act is involuntary - they involve a "state of a affairs" but not one the d has entered voluntarily. E.g. R v Larsonneur 1933 - the d was ordered to leave the UK, so she decided to go Eire, but the police deported her back to the UK, so it wasn't voluntary, but she was convicted because she was an alien who had been "found in the UK". It didn't matter that she was brought back against her will.
        • If someone fails to do something they aren't liable for the omission, according to Stephen's Digest. However there are some exceptions when there is a duty to act:   a statutory duty (s1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933), a contractual duty (R v Pittwood),  a duty because of a relationship (R v Gibbins and Proctor), a duty which has been undertaken voluntarily (R v Stone and Dobinson), a duty through one's official position (R v Dytham) and a duty which arises through a series of events (R v Miller).
      • Types of mens rea -
        • Direct intent - a decision to bring about the prohibited consequence (R v Mohan).
        • Oblique intent - virtual certainty test - was it virtuall y certain what happened would happen? Would the defendant realise this? - R V Woollin
        • Reckessness - where the defendant knows there's a risk but takes it anyway. (R v Cunningham)
      • In a strict liability case, a mens rea is not required. There's no "due diligence" defence (where the defendant has done all within their power not to commit the offence - Harrow LBC vs Shah and Shah) and no defence of mistake (Cundy v Le Cocq)
        • -Puts pressure on people, so reduces danger, as even if people have taken care, if they fail to, it can be dangerous. (E.g. vehicles must be in safe condition so offences of strict liability do more regular checks).          - Protects the public's health by making sure businesses are run properly, e.g. hygiene in processing and selling food. -A lack of blameworthiness can be taken into account when sentencing.
        • People may be guilty even though they are unaware of the risk. E.g. Environment Agency v Brock plc (1998)           There's evidence to suggest it doesn't improve standards - if precautions against a small risk are too expensive, or the precautions outweigh the fine for not abiding, then company managers might not pay for precautions.   - It can be imposed even when it creates social stigma ( R v G) = serious consequences
      • In an absolute liability case, no mens rea is required nor does the actus reus need to be voluntary (e.g. R v Larsonneur, Winzar).
      • When an Act of Parliament doesn't contain any words indicating mens rea, the judges will begin  by presuming that all criminal offences require mens rea (Sweet v Parsley).
      • The Gammon Tests - The presumption of mens rea... - can only be displaced if this is clearly or the implied effect of the statute     -is particularly strong where the offence is "truly criminal" in character       -can only be displaced if the statute is concerned with an issue of social concern such as public safety     -strict liability should only apply if it will help enforce the law by encouraging greater vigilance to prevent the commission of the prohibited act.
    • Causation
    • Transferred malice - the defendant can be guilty if he intended to commit a similar crime but against a different person (R v Latimer)
      • However the crimes must be similar (R v Pembliton).
    • Coincidence rule - the mens rea and actus reus must occur at the same time. They can combine over a series of acts (Thabo Meli v R, R v Church) or when the actus reus is a continuing act (Fagan)
    • Non-fatal offences
      • Assault
      • Battery
      • Section 47
        • Battery
        • Assault
      • S20
      • S18


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