Actus Reus



  • To prove a person guilty of a crime the Prosecution must prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the D committed the Actus Reus and possesed the relevant Mens Rea. 
  • The Actus Reus is the forbidden act, it must be committed voluntarily.
  • If the D's act is involuntary, then he has not committed the Actus Reus and so he is not guilty of the crime.
  • In R v T, D's act of taking goods from a shop without paying for them was involuntary because she was suffering from PTSD having been ***** a few hours before. 
  • However, for State of Affairs offences the Actus Reus can be committed involuntary, e.g. In Winzar the D was guilty of ''being drunk on a public highway'' even though the police put him there.
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How can the AR be committed?

In 3 ways: 

- State of Affairs Offences, e.g. being in a particular place (Winzar)

- D's Act, e.g. the act must be voluntary (R v T)

- Omission e.g. placed under a duty (the 5 circumstances)

D's Act: 

  • Relflex actions/muscle spasms are involuntary = Automatism (D acts in an automated state).
  • If a person pushes another person to get the the front of the que, the AR is committed as pushing the person was a voluntary act. 
  • If a person has an eplieptic fit and hits another person, the AR not committed as their act was involuntary.

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State of Affairs Offences

In some instances, D can commited the AR by an involuntary act, these will involve State of Affairs Offences:

Larsonneur: D ordered to leave the UK as an illegal immigrant, she went to Eire, Irish police sent her back to the UK. When she landed back in the UK she was arrested and charged, and later convicted of ''being an alien to whom leave to land in the UK has been refused and was found in the UK.''

Winzar: Even though police placed him on the 'highway' he was commiting a State of Affairs offence and although the act was involuntary he was charged with 'being drunk on a public highway''.

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An Omission is a failure to act

Actus Reus generally cannot be committed by an omission, but there are some exceptions.

If a person under a duty to act, fails to do so, their omission can form the Actus Reus.

The 5 circumstances: 

- D had a special relationship with V. -Gibbins & Proctor (1918); father gave GF money to buy food for his daughter who they kept locked in a cupboard, GF spent the money on herself and the daughter died of neglect. The father failed to care for his daughter and so his omission formed the AR.

- D voluntarily took on a duty to act. - Stone & Dobinson (1977); a couple who had learning difficuilties invited their sister who had an eating disorder to live with them, V became ill and unable to care for herself, although the couple occasionally tried to care for her V died. 'Occaisonally' caring for her resulted in them voluntarily taking on a duty to care for her.

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- D created a dangerous situation. -Miller (1983); a squatter accidently started a fire, when he realised he left and went to sleep in another room, the house burnt down, the squatter created a dangerous situation by starting the fire and failed to act by not calling the fire bridgade

- D's public position/contract of employment places D's under a duty to act. - Pitwood (1902); a railway gate keeper did not close the gates when a train was coming, V was struck and killed. D's omission of not closing the gates formed the AR. -Dytham (1979); a police officer witnessed a violent attack on V by a night club bouncer, the policeman drove away. The police officer's omission of driving away and not helping the V formed the AR.

- Where a Statute places D under a duty to act. - Road Traffic Act 1988 places a person under a duty to wear a seatbelt.

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