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Offences of strict liability are those where the defendant is guilty because they did the Actus Reus. In
these cases there is no need to prove any Mens Rea. This can be seen through the case of
Larsonneur. In this case, the defendant had been ordered to leave the country and went to Ireland
but they deported her and took her back to the UK. We can see that she had no Mens Rea.
Another example of this can be Harrow London Borough Council v Shah. In this case, the staff of a
shop sold lottery tickets to a 13 year old boy and the defendants were found guilty straight away
and no Mens Rea was needed even though they had done their best to prevent this from happening
in their shop.
Which offences are strict liability?-
Judges often have difficulties in deciding whether an offence is one of strict liability or not, the first
rule that helps them is where an Act of Parliament includes words that suggest Mens Rea. These can
be words such as `knowingly', `intentionally', `maliciously' etc. And in Acts where these words are
used, we are aware that a Mens Rea is needed. However if an Act of Parliament makes it clear that a
Mens Rea is not needed, then the offence will be one of Strict Liability.
The presumption of Mens Rea-
However there can be problems when an Act of Parliament doesn't include any words indicating
Mens Rea. This is where judges begin to presume that all criminal acts require a Mens Rea which can
be seen in the case of Sweet v Parsley.
In this case, the defendant rented out a farmhouse and let it out to students. The police found
cannabis at the farmhouse and the defendant was charged with `being concerned in the
management of premises used for the purpose of smoking cannabis resin'.
The defendant did not know that cannabis was being smoked there and it was decided that she was
not guilty as the court believed that the offence required a Mens Rea.
Justification for Strict Liability-
Main justification is that Strict Liability offences help protect society by promoting greater
care over matters of public safety
Also encourages higher standards in terms of hygiene and sales (food etc.)
It's easier to enforce as you don't need to prove Mens Rea
Saves court time
The fact that the defendant is not blameworthy can be taken into account in sentencing
Arguments against Strict Liability-
The main argument against strict Liability is that it `feels' unjust
People who have no intent to commit a crime may be found guilty
Even those who have been taken all possible care will be found guilty as seen in the case of
Harrow London Borough Council v Shah