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There are three types of unlawful homicide: murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The
degree of seriousness applied to each offence is essentially a reflection of the defendant's state of
mind. With regard to the killing murder is the most serious category of unlawful homicide.
Definition: "Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being under Queen's peace with malice
Actus Reus of Murder (Pagett, Jordan, Smith and Blaue)
The actus reus of murder simply consists of the unlawful killing of a human being under
Queen's peace. It can be broken down into three main elements:
a) The unlawful killing the killing must be unlawful.
b) The victim must be a human being normally, this will be self evident but it is murder to kill a
foetus (unborn baby) because it is fully independent of its mother.
c) Queen's peace any killing within England and Wales by any person.
When discussing actus reus of murder, it is vital to discuss causation along with the think skull rule,
and apply it back to the case.
Causation is establishing a direct link between the defendant's conduct and the consequences.
The prosecution must prove that defendant's act was both legal and factual cause of death.
a) Factual use the "But for" test. But for the defendants conduct, would the consequences
have occurred? R v Pagett Pagett's girlfriend was killed by police bullets while Pagett was
using her as a shield.
b) Legal the defendants act must be an operative and substantial cause of death. R v Smith
two soldiers had a fight which resulted in the victim receiving a bayonet wound. Doctor failed
to diagnose punctured lung and gave bad treatment. (The chain of causation wasn't broken
at the time of death, the original wound was still operating and substantial cause.)
R v Jordan victim of a serious injury made a good recovery in the hospital. Them, he
received an injection to which he was allergic and died. Chain of causation was broken
because the original wound was healed at the time.)
c) Thin skull rule "you must take your victim as you find him". Refers to the situation where
the intervening cause is a pre-existing weakness of the victim, such as an abnormality of skull.
R v Blaue the victim of stabbing Jehovah's Witness refused to have blood transfusion
and died. (Victims refusal to accept transfusion did not break the chain of causation)
Mens Rea of Murder ( Vickers, Cunningham)
Mens rea of murder is simply stated as intention to kill or cause grievous bodily harm (GBH)
with malice aforethought, which is an element of planning. There are two definite cases for
mens rea of murder stated below.
Paul C LAW A2Page 1
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In Vickers, the defendant broke into a sweet shop and beat the elderly owner down. He
was convicted of murder as the element of planning was there.
b) R v Cunningham - the defendant had repeatedly struck his victim with a chair leg and the
victim died. The House of Lords stated that it amounts to murder because the intention to
cause "very serious injury (GBH) was there.…read more