Actus Reus

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What is actus reus (AR)

Actus Reus means the guilty mind and is:

  • the external (doing) part of a crime.
  • The D's conduct must be voluntary to establish criminal liability. 
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Voluntary Acts

Involuntary Acts:

  • Seen in Hill v Baxter. The judge gave a theotrical example of an involuntary act, which was a reflex action. E.g if a swarm of bees came through a car window, the driver's natural reaction would be to wave his hands. It would not be their fault if they went into a car if this happened. 
  • Real example: The Whoolley Case, where an HAV driver had a sneezing fit which caused him to crash into the back of slow moving traffic on the MO2. 
  • Also seen in Leicester v Pearson, where the D was found not guilty because another car was pushing him across a zebra crossing, therefore it was not his fault. 
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Different types of AR

The different types of AR are:

  • A prohibited act (theft).
  • An omission/failure to act, such as failing to wear a seatbelt.
  • A set of circumstances/state of affairs (being in possession of illegal drugs).
  • Causing a prohibited result (muder causing a death). 
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A prohibited act

A prohibited act:

  • The AR of some crimes is to do an act that is prohibited by criminal law.
  • They require a prohibited act to be carried out rather than a prohibited result.
  • E.g.
    • Theft (taking property).
    • Battery (hitting someone).
    • Perjury (telling lies in court).
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  • The AR of an omission is where : 'you did not act in a situation where you were legally bound to do so.'
  • There is no good samaritan law in the UK, therefore a person does not commit a crime or become party to it, solely because he might have prevented it.
  • There are 6 types of duty situations:
    • Statutory (R v Lowe)
    • Contractual (R v :Pittwood)
    • Public (R v Dytham)
    • Relationship (R v Gibbins)
    • Voluntary (R v Stone & Dobinson)
    • Dangerous situation (R v Miller)
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A set of circumstances or state affairs

The 3rd type of AR is A set of circumstances or state of affairs:

  • This includes being found:
    • in possession of an offensive weapon.
    • in possession of drugs.
    •  drunk  on the public highway.
  • Occasionally, people can be found guilty of a criminal offense for being in the wrong place, even though they had no control over their actions:
    • Seen in R v Larsonneur, where the D's visa ran out and tried to go to Ireland. So they sent her back to England where she was arrested and charged under the Alien's Order 1920, despite the fact she was bought to England by force.
    • Also seen in Winzar v Chief Constable of Kent, where the D was taken to hospital drunk and was discharged. The police took him outside into the street, outside the hopsital. Therefore the D was charged and subsequently convicted of 'being found drunk on the highway' under the Licensing Act 1872.
  • The Ds had no control over their conduct, however they both contributed to their state of affairs by their earlier voluntary conduct.
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The result of a crime

The 4th type of AR is The result of a crime:

  • This is where the conduct might not be criminal but the result may be criminal. 
  • For example, throwing a stone is not a crime but if it smashes a window, it becomes criminal. 
  • Causation, therefore, must be established. 
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