Actus Reus revision

Actus reus

voluntary, omissions, state of affairs.

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Rianna Treasure
Unit 2 Law Revision
The prosecution must prove that the defendant committed an Actus Reus and had the Mens
Rea at the same time.
Actus Reus
Consists of more than just an act, it also consists of all other circumstances and
consequences that are required for the offence in question. (All elements of the
offence other than the mental element)
Can be committed in a variety of ways, including a voluntary act, an omission (failure
to act) and a state of affairs.
Conduct crimes­ eg, Actus Reus of the offence of dangerous driving is `driving a
mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place' (Road traffic Act
1998) no harm or consequence of that dangerous driving need be established.
Result crimes ­ Where the Actus Reus of an offence requires proof that the act
caused a prohibited result or consequence. For example, the Actus Reus of the
offence of criminal damage is that property belonging to another must be destroyed
or damaged (Criminal Damage Act 1971).
Voluntary ­ The defendant's act must be voluntary to incur liability. Eg, the defendant
made a conscious decision to bring about the event.
A defendant's act may be classed as involuntary due to:
Automatism: where D performs a physical act but is unaware or not in control of
his actions because of an external factor. R V QUICK: Where the defendant took
an injection of insulin and assaulted the victim during a blackout.
Spontaneous reflex action: Example given in HILL V BAXTER where the
defendant in stung by a swarm of bees whilst driving, and loses control of the car.
If physically forced by someone else: There will no Actus Reus. Eg,
LEICESTER V PEARSON: Where D's car was forced onto a pedestrian
crossing after being bumped by the driver behind.
Omissions It certain situations it will be the fact that the D failed to act which causes the
prohibited result to occur. The general rule is that there is no liability for failing to act,
however unless at the time of the failure to act the defendant was under legal duty to take
The law has defined certain situations in which persons shall be under a duty to act:
Where there is a contractual duty to act R V PITTWOOD
Duty arising from a statute, Eg, The Children's and Young Persons Act 1933
Where it is an offence to wilfully neglect a child, including withdrawing medical
treatment or food.
Where there is a voluntary assumed responsibility of care, this is a common law duty
of care where there is a relationship of reliance between the defendant and the
Where the D by his own acts has created a dangerous situation and fails to act on it.
A public duty to act: Where the defendant has a particular occupation (eg police
officer) which requires him/her to act in such a way to protect other people. R V

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Rianna Treasure
State of affairs cases Not doing a positive act but `being found', `being in possession',
`being in charge'. The prosecution only need to prove the existence of the factual
circumstances.…read more


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