Actus reus and criminal liability

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Actus Reus and Criminal Liability
For someone to be convicted of a criminal offence, that person
would have to satisfy both the physical and mental elements of
the specific crime. People cannot be held liable for their evil
thoughts if they do not proceed with them, nor should people that
are might actually physically do something without holding the
required culpability.
The physical element is presumed to be voluntary, the offence
cannot be committed if the person had no control over his actions
at the time. An act would be involuntary if the movement which
occurred through the agent had no reason of moving his body in
that way. Examples of involuntariness include convulsions, muscle
spasms, etc. The act must be voluntary even for offences of strict
liability because liability will only accrue where the conduct is
willed. The effect of involuntariness should be seen in the light of
the principle of prior fault, a sample case is Kay v Butterworth
where the driver fell asleep while driving, he was convicted
because he should have stopped driving when he starting getting
The actus reus and mens rea have to co-exist at the same
moment for them to lead to the creation of a criminal offence. The
court has at times superficially joint a set of events into a single
time line to be able 'catch' offenders. Certain cases were too
superficial eg. Fagan v MPC, in this context the court claimed that
it should be looked at the event as a whole so that both elements
Actus Reus is the Latin phrase of the physical element. It could
exist in the following forms: (1) An act, (2) a consequence, (3) an
omission, (4) a state of affairs. The act type of actus reus is the
most commonly known form of crimes, these are positive
prohibited acts such as rape, theft, etc. The specific (1) act is
prohibited in itself. A (2) consequence could illustrate the actus
reus is the distinction between murder and assault. If a person
attacks a person with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm
that would person would be held liable for assault if he only
causes GBH, but if the consequence was the death of the victim
instead of GBH, the accused would be convicted of murder
instead. A person would be held liable for an (3) omission when a
duty to act exists, an example would be a relationship such as
that one a parent and a child. The last form, (4) state of affairs, is
extremely rare, the most famous case is Larsenneur, in which D
was convicted because she "was found in the UK" regardless of
the fact that he had no control over her departure from another
country to the UK. More common forms of liable states of affairs
are related to being drunk while in charge of a driven car.

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The liability for omissions only arises where D was under a duty to
act, normally, a person would not be obliged under the law to
save a help a person dying on the street. In the UK, a person is
only required to act when he is under some sort of duty, there are
five main categories for duties under common law:
1. Duty arising out of a relationship, eg.…read more


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