Actus Reus

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  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 28-01-14 09:46

What Is It?

Physical Element of a crime.

It can be:

  • An act
  • An omission
  • A state of affairs

Act or omission must be voluntary on the part of the defendant.

No control over actions - not committed the actus reus AUTOMATISM 

Case Hill v Baxter (automatism) 

  • defendant crashed into another car - Dangerous Driving
  • claimed to be sub consciouse driving - involuntary
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State of Affairs

  • where the defendant has been convicted through he did not act voluntary 

Case: R v Larsonneur

  • D is a french woman deported against her will from Ireland to England and was immediatly charged as an illegal alien, despite the fact she had not voluntarty come to England.

Case: Winzar

  • D was a drunk man taken by the police fro  a hospital to the road. Found guilty of being drunk on a motor way although he wasnt there voluntarily. 
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A failure to act cant usually make a person guilty. Exceptions allowing omission to be the actus reus is where there is a duty to act, this has 6 ways of happening:

  • 1) a statutory duty
  • 2) a contractual duty - lifeguard
  • 3) a duty because of a relationship - parent and child
  • 4) duty taken on voluntarity - elderly sibling living with you
  • 5) a duty through ones official position - police man witness a fight
  • 6) a duty arisen due to the defendan has set in motion a chain of events

Involuntary manslaughter:

unlawful act manslaughter cannot be committed by an omission - must be an act

gross negligence manslaughter can be committed by an omission

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When  consequence must be proven to find D guilty the prosecution has to show that:

  • Defendants conduct was the factual cause of the consequence
  • Defendants conduct was the in law cause of the consequence
  • There was no intervening act which broke the chain of causation
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Factual Cause

  • The consequence would not have happend 'but for' the defendants conduct.

Case: Pagett (1983)

used his pregnant girlfriend as a shield in a police shoot out, police shot back at the man and the girl was killed, Pagett convicted of manslaighter as she would not have died 'but for' D using her as a shield.

Case: White (1910)

D put cyanide in his mums drink intending to kill. she died of a heart attack before she could drink it. D did'nt cause her death, not guilty of murder but attempted murder. 

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Cause in Law

  • May be more than one person whose act may have contributed to the consequence
  • D can be guilty if there conduct must be more that a minimum cause 

Thin Skull Rule

  • Take the victim as he finds him
  • If the victim has something unusual about them eg a thin skull meaning an injury is more seriouse D is liable for the more seriouse injury.
  • Punch a man with a thin skull which would cause brusing on a 'normal person' more serious - D is liable. 

Case: Balue

Young woman stabbed, JW so wouldnt have a blood transfusion as so died, D guilty because he had to take his victim as he found them.

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Chain Of Causation

  • must be a direct link from defendants conduct to the consequence
  • if something eles haooend after the defendants act or omission and is sufficiently separate from the defendants conduct - break the chain

Intervening Act: sufficiently independant and serious

  • act of a third party
  • victims own act
  • natural but unpredictable event

Example: D injured V and V is taken to hospital in an ambulance. On the way the ambulance is in a crash and V gets seriouse injuries and dies. Major intervering act defendant not liable for Vs death. 

Victim's Own Act:

  • D causes V to react in a forseeable way, injury of V is caused by D
  • V reaction is unreasonable may break the chain
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Chain Of Causation: Medical Treatment

Medical treatment is unlikely to break the chain unless:

  • it is so independant of the defendants acts
  • in itself so potent in causing death
  • defendants acts are insignificant

Case: Smith (1959) - 2 soldiers had a fight, 1 was stabbed. V carried to a medical centre and staff gave artificial respiration (pressed on his chest) injury worsened and he died. D was still guilty of Vs death as the wound was the overwhelming cause of death.

Case: Cheshire (1991) - D shot V in thigh and stomach. Given a tracheotomy (help him breath) died from rare complications not spotted be doctor. D still liable

Case: Jordan (1956) - V stabbed in stomach. Allergic reaction to antibiotics given - died. Actions of doctors were the intervening act causing death. D not guilty

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