Criminal Liability - from Actus Reus & Mens Rea to Strict Liability

Principles of Criminal Liability:

My notes (a distinctly shortened version of them!) for: Actus Reus, Omissions, Causation, Mens Rea and Absolute/Strict Liability

More will be up soon on other areas of law, i.e. attemps, non fatal offences etc. Just have to type them!

Please comment or message me if you spot any mistakes as I'd like to know if I've been revising the wrong thing!!! And also, if you can think of any more evaluation points for mens rea....

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  • Created by: Vixxx92
  • Created on: 15-05-11 18:01
Preview of Criminal Liability - from Actus Reus & Mens Rea to Strict Liability

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1) Issues of Criminal Liability: Actus Reus, Omissions, Causation, Mens Rea, Criminal Liability and Offences of Strict Liability
Actus Reus and Omissions
The Actus Reus is the physical element of a crime
It may be an act or a failure to act (an omission)
It must be voluntary on the part of the defendant
For some crimes the Actus Reus must result in a consequence
o E.g. Assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm
Normal Rule for omissions is that this cannot make a person guilty of an offence
No `Good Samaritan' Law in this country
6 Exceptions where there is a duty to act:
1. A statutory duty
2. A contractual duty
R v Pittwood (1902) ­ A railway crossing keeper failed to shut the gates resulting in a person being struck by a train
3. A duty because of a relationship
R v Gibbins and Proctor (1918) ­ D and Partner responsible for D's children. Singled out one girl and starved her to death.
4. A duty taken on voluntarily
R v Stone and Dobinson (1977) - Stones sister came to live with D's. Dobinson occasionally helped to wash and feed the V, she died of
5. A duty through ones official position
R v Dytham (1979) - D was a police officer who watched a man being kicked to death before going off duty and doing nothing to help.
6. A duty which arises because the D has set a chain of events in motion
R v Miller (1983) - D was squatting, slept with a cigarette, set fire to mattress. He moved to another room without getting help. Charged
with Arson.
AO2 Points on the Law of Omissions:
Should there be a Good Samaritan law and wider liability?
o Yes: Modern, moral responsibilities
o No: Could do more harm than good, could be abused to commit crime
There are difficulties in deciding when a duty does and does not exist

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Decided by judge, if there is sufficient evidence, and jury, if it exists and has been broken
o Makes the law able to expand for new situations
o Creates uncertainty in the law
Should a person really be liable for failure to act when they have assumed a duty?
o Is it harsh that someone who accepts someone into their home is then responsible?
o Adults generally held to be responsible for their own lives
o What if the adult is vulnerable?
Is there a…read more

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Life Support Machines do not count as a n.i.a:
R v Malcharek (1981) ­ D stabbed his wife; she was shown to be brain dead and the life support was switched off. D was charged with
murder: turning off a life support was not held to be an n.i.a.
`Fright or flight', Victims own act may be an n.i.a if it is foreseeable:
R v Roberts (1971) ­ V jumped from a car to avoid the D's sexual advances and was injured.…read more

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Recklessness is a lower level of mens rea than intention
It is based on the subjective approach:
R v Cunningham (1957) ­ D tore a gas meter from a wall to steal money from it. The resulting gas leak caused a next door
neighbour some harm. N.…read more

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AO2 Points on the Law on Mens Rea
[With respect to Oblique Intention] the difficulties the courts have faced in deciding foresight of consequences has resulted in several layers
of confusing case law and no definitive result
Nedrick test favours the D as it is an extremely high standard of proof
Forming Criminal Liability
For an offence to take place, the actus reus and mens rea must coincide in time.…read more

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Approximately half of all statutory offences of strict liability
What happens in an act is `silent' to Mens Rea?
o The `Gammon Tests' are used (Gammon (Hong Kong) Ltd v Attorney General of Hong Kong):
1. There is always an initial presumption of MR
2. The presumption may be displaced if it is the clear or necessary implication of the statute...
3. ...or if the statute deals with an issue of social concern
4.…read more


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