Discuss the extent to which the courts insist that all crimes require both an actus reus and a mens rea

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Discuss the extent to which the courts insist that all crimes require both an actus reus
and a mens rea ( 25 marks)
It is presumed that all offences require an Actus Reus (guilty act) and a Mens Rea (guilty
mind). However, it is possible for some offences to have an actus reus only. These are
called strict liability crimes. Within this group of crime, is absolute liability where not only the
mens rea not need be there, but also the actus Reus doesn't have to be voluntary.
In Larsonneur (1933) a French National was deported from
England to Northern Ireland. However, the Irish authorities
would not let her stay so she was reported back to England,
where she was arrested. Similarly in the case of Winzar V
Chief Constable of Kent (1983), the Defendant was taken to
hospital where he was diagnosed as being drunk, he was
told to leave the hospital but fell asleep in a corridor. The
police were called and walked him to the highway where
they arrested him for being drunk on the highway. In the
case of Pharmaceutical Company for Great Britain V
Starkwain (1986) the pharmacist dispensed drugs from a
forged prescription. They did not know it was forged but
were still convicted, their appeal failed.
All the above cases illustrate absolute liability which shows
that the mens rea need not be present and the actus reus need not be voluntary. Strict
Liability cases is where mens rea is not required, an example of this is in the case of
Gammon (Hong Kong) V Attorney ­ General (1985), it was held that the starting point for the
courts, is to presume that mens rea is always needed but that this presumption can be
rebutted by considering four factors. In the case of Gammon (Hong Kong) V Attorney ­
General (1985) builders had deviated from plans and part of a building had fell down, but that
is irrelevant, they deviated from plans, so that is the actus reus. The problem with English
Statutes is that they don't always state that a crime is strict liability or not. It is up to the judge
using statutory interpretation such as the literal and mischief rule to decide. It is important to
look at the wording and the intended meaning of parliament.
One of the four Gammon question to ask is: does the statue through the words used imply
that it is strict liability? This basically means do the words `intentionally' or `knowingly' appear
in the statue or is it `cause' or `possession' which would mean the crime is strict liability. The
case of Alpha cell V Woodward (1972) demonstrate this where a company caused polluted
matter to enter into a river. They hadn't meant to do this and had installed a filter which
became clogged with leaves, but they were the ones who had caused it. Another question to
consider is, is the offence regulatory or a true crime? With regulatory offences there is
generally not much stigma attached for example, speeding. The case of Sweet V Parsley
(1970) held that true crimes are criminal and have a stigma attached such as losing a job
because of conviction. The third question to consider is whether there is a public/social
concern aspect to the crime. This may be something like selling alchol or lottery tickets to
those under age as in the case of Harrow V Shah (1999). The final question to consider is
what the penalty of the crime is. In the case of Gammon there was a £250,000 fine or a 5 ­

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smaller the fine (like with speeding) the more likely a case is classed as strict liability.
In some aspects, strict liability can seem unfair as in the case of Callow V Tillstone (1990).
The butcher sold bad meat but had asked his vet to check the meat to see if it was fit for
human consumption. The vet said it was, so he solid it. However, it was found it was not fit
for human consumption and the butcher was fined.…read more


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