Strict Liability

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  • Created on: 03-02-14 19:22
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Strict Liability
You usually need an Actus Reus and Mens Rea for any crime. However, for a tiny
number of crimes you only need Actus Reus. No Mens Rea is required for a
conviction. This means you don't need negligence, recklessness or intent it is
enough to just perform the act.
There are two categories of strict liability offence:
1. Public Danger Offences
Protection of the public is seen as so important that people are convicted for just
doing the act. The idea is to stamp out the offence. Examples include:
a) Road Traffic Act 1988 ­ driving with excess alcohol in blood.
b) Pharmaceutical Society v Storkwain ­ the defendant supplied a controlled
medicine under a forged prescription. Convicted even though didn't know it was
c) Harrow v Shah ­ the defendant's employee sold a lottery ticket to an underage
customer. Was convicted even though had told employees not to sell to
underage customers and to ask for ID.
2. Regulatory Offences
This category concerns the sale of food and hygiene. The idea is to make breach of
food hygiene regulations a strict liability offence so that people are more careful. It
also allows for a quick and easy prosecution for offenders. Examples include:
a) Smedley v Breed ­ a caterpillar was found in a tin of peas. The factory was
liable even though the court accepted they were not negligent.
In the UK Strict Liability is not used very often. There is a feeling that it is wrong to
convict people when they do not have intention and are not reckless or even careless.
Conviction should only happen when people are to blame morally. It is not fair to fine
or punish people without Mens Rea. Also it is not clear that Strict Liability helps wipe
out dangerous offences by making people more careful.
Sweet v Parsley ­ Landlady convicted of offence for owning property in which
students were growing drugs. On appeal the court said we should use Strict Liability
where an offence is not "truly criminal".


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