Mens rea

My notes on Mens Rea with many cases

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Mens rea is the mental element of an offence ­ the `guilty mind'. The only exceptions to mens
rea are strict liability cases. There are different levels of mens rea and to be guilty the defendant
must have at least the minimum level of mens rea required for the offence
1. Intention: highest level of mens rea
The definition of intention is set out in the case of Mohan (1975):
`A decision to bring about, in so far as it lies within the accused power
(the prohibited consequence) no matter whether the accused desired that
consequence or not.'
This quote shows that the motive of the act is irrelevant. It also shows that the
defendant must make the decision to do something that caused a bad consequence.
In the majority of case the defendant has what is known as DIRECT INTENT
which means that the defendant intends for a specific consequence to occur (e.g.
shooting someone in the head has intent to kill).
However there can be cases where the defendant intends one thing but the
consequence is different. This is known as OBLIQUE INTENT/INDIRECT
INTENT. An example of this is in the case of Hancock v Shankland (1986) where
D wanted to stop V's car so pushed a concrete block into the roadway ­ V was hit
by the block and died. D only intended for the car to be stopped so this is an indirect
intent because he still intended to do the action.
The main problem with proving intentions is where indirect intent is involved but if
the defendant had thought about the possible consequences (even if it wasn't the one
he wanted) he would be found guilty. This is called FORSIGHT OF
CONSEQUENCES. In moloney the HoL said that this is not proof of intention
but the jury should consider if the defendant act caused injury/death or if they
intended to do this. The problem with these guidelines is that they do not talk about

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From the cases of Monoly, Nedrick and Hancock and Shankland the court of appeal
said that it was helpful if the jury considered the following questions when deciding
on a verdict:
1. How probable was the consequence which resulted from D's voluntary act?
2. Did D forsee that consequence?
This was taken to mean that the consequence that happened was almost certainly
going to happen and that D had realized this before he committed the offence.…read more

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In this case because the word maliciously was used the requirement of mens rea was
required. Therefore any piece of law containing the word maliciously would require
the defendant to have mens rea before any conviction can be made. This only works
with recklessness though because if there is intention the defendant will still be
convicted.…read more

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This is not widely used in
criminal law but is frequently seen in civil law. The only mainstream offence for
which negligence can be a defense is for manslaughter. But even this is only where
there has been an act of `gross negligence' which means a very high level of
negligence that result in somebody's death.
4) Knowledge
This is what is requires in some statutory offences.…read more


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