AS Law02 Actus Reus

This covers all of actus reus:

  • Definitions
  • Voluntary and Involuntary ACts
  • Omissions
  • Causation

with all relevant cases

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  • Created by: Henry Ng
  • Created on: 29-05-12 14:11

Actus Reus

Actus reus (AR) - the guilty mind; this is needed to find criminal liability.

  • AR for murder is act of unlawful killing

AR must be voluntary; it must be a geuine choice made of the defendant 

  • Dudley V Stephens

AR cannot be involutary; someone who acts autonomously is does not have AR

  • Hill v Baxter 1958 - involuntary driving
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AR can be apparent if one has a duty and fails to act; they owe a duty of care, this is known as an Omission.

There are 5 types of omission

  • Contractual - contractual duty to act, usually on behalf of jobs.
    • Pittwood 1902 (railway crossing)
  • Public Position - if one holds a public position they can owe a duty of care
    • Dytham 1979 (off duty policeman watched as a man was kicked to death)
  • Failure to minimise harm - if harm is caused then a D should attempt to minimise
    • Miller 1983 (squatter set a mattress alight led to burning house)
  • Responsiblility of another - taking responsibility leads to duty
    • Stone V Dobinson 1977 (caring for anorexic sister)
  • Statute law - if statute states legal requirement leads to duty.
    • Children and Young Persons Act 1933
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Causation - initial act or idea that has caused the resulting act (AR)

Causation is required for AR; prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt legal and factual causation.

Factual Causation: "But for test" and "deminimus test"

  • But for Defendant's (D) action Victim (V) wouldnt have come to any harm.
    • Pagett 1983 (used girlfriend as a human shield)
  • Deminimus; D's actions must be more than a minimal cause.
    • White 1901 (cyonide to poison mum, she died of heart attack)
      • against deminimus!!!

Legal Causation: "Operating and substantial Cause"

  • operating and substantial cause; link between D and consequence
    • Smith 1959 (fighting soldiers)
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Chain of Causation

Chain of causation - links between events that maintain causation through criminal cases.

  • new intervening acts break causation! (Novus actus interveniens)
    • Jordan 1956 (Palbably wrong medical care)
  • example of no break!
    • Malcherek 1981 (disconnecting life support, was not operating or substantial)
  • Reasonable acts do not break chain of causation!
    • Roberts 1971 (sexual advances jumped out of car)
  • unreasonable acts are intervening
    • Williams 1992 (being robbed whilst hitchiking and jumped out)
  • Thin skull rule - take your victim as you find them; there are no changes to liability if a previous condition results in a worse liability.
    • Blaue 1975 (refused blood transfusion and died)
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Rebecca Davis


Hello, ALL of your revision cards are amazing! They are so useful! Thank you so much! :D

Henry Ng


Thats alright i hope your exam went well :) 



doesn't Mens Rea mean the guilty mind and Actus Reus mean the guilty act? :S

Henry Ng


woops yeah sorry ill change that :)

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