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Fault is defined in terms of responsibility and culpability or blame for something wrong.
Responsibility is defined in terms of ability to take rational decisions and rational is
defined in terms of reasonableness.
Fault is generally an essential requirement of liability in the law of tort. Liability in
negligence requires proof of a breach of duty. A breach of duty arises when the
defendant fails to act or not act as "the reasonable man" would have. In Bolton v Stone
the defendants acted as a reasonable man would have, by taking action in creating a
higher fence around the cricket ground to minimise the risk of people outside the
ground being injured by the cricket balls. However, in Paris v Stephney borough council,
the court held that in light of potential serious consequences posed by welding to an
employee with only one eye, the employer should have taken reasonable action in
providing safety goggles. Liability under the occupiers liability act 1957 also required
proof of fault.
Fault is also relevant to the general defence of a contributory negligence under the law
reform act 1945. S.1(1) damages are reduced according to the claimants responsibility
for the damage. In Froom v Butcher, the claimant's damages were reduced by 25% due
to his failure to wear a seatbelt.
There are however areas of tort in which there is no need to provide fault. For example,
nuisance is a strict liability tort. The defendant cannot claim as a defence that he took
reasonable care to avoid causing nuisance. The rule in Rylands v Fletcher is another
strict liability tort, however since the case of Cambridge water company v Eastern
countries leather plc (1994), negligence principles have applied in respect of the type of
damage caused having to be foreseeable.
It is also important to consider the principles of vicarious liability which imposes liability
for someone else's fault. In the work place, the employer is liable for torts committed
while the employee is doing what he/she is authorised to do but doing it in an
authorised manner. In Rose v Plenty (1976), the employer had expressly forbidden
employees to allow people to ride on the milk floats. The employer was, nevertheless,
vicariously liable, when a 13 year old boy was injured while helping an employee deliver
To be found guilty in most criminal offences an actus reus and mens rea must be
present. The actus reus must usually be committed voluntarily. If the accused is not in
control of his/her actions, there are general defences that the accused may raise, such
as insanity, automatism and duress. In R v Bailey the accused, a diabetic successfully
pleaded the defence of automatism.
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The mens rea comprises the mental element of a crime. All of the nonfatal offences
except that provided by S,18 offences against the persons act, are crimes of basic
intent. Section 18 is a specific intent crime. All of the nonfatal offences, therefore
require proof of fault for a conviction. Similarly all homicide offences require proof of
fault. Murder is the most serious homicide offence. The accused must intend to kill or
cause grievous bodily harm.…read more