as law - unit 2 - criminal liability - Strict liability

revision cards for strict liability 

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Strict liability - why is it used and how do we kn

Strict liability - these are offences that need only actus reus andNO MENS REA!


  • To provide basic saftey to the public
  • To make convictions easier as NO MENS REA is needed to be proven
  • Created during industrial revolutions as factory owners were getting away as there was no mens rea.
  •  Makes regulations striaghtforward and clear
  • Quasi crimes - not 'truley criminal'
  • Act as a deterent to the public for doing certain things.


1) Do the words use in the act imply strict liability?                                                Recklessly or knowingly = mens rea Cause or posession = usually no mens rea

2) Is the offence really criminal or merely regulatory?                                               It is pressumed all criminal offences need mens rea unless the definition of the offence states otherwise. 

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Strict liability - Case examples

Sweet v Parsley (1970) - woman rented out flat to students - cannabis found in flat - land lady wasnt convicted as management of premisis is not included in dangerous drugs act 1960.

Alphacell v Woodward (1972) - Papermakers - overflow from settling tanks pooluted river as pumping equipment was blocked - fined £20

Smedleys v Breed - Cattipilar found in peas - one of millions - convicted under food and drugs act 1955

R v Blake (1997) - D convicted making illegal rasio broadcasts - didnt know he was - could have affected operation of emergency services. 

London Borough of Harrow v Shah - Sold national lottery ticket to under 16 - not criminal but looked at as matter of concern. 

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Strict liability - Case examples continued

Gammon LTD v Attorney General for Hong Kong (1985) - Set out general critertia to work of if an offence is a strict liability offence

  • Should be pressumption that you need actus reus and mens rea as a general rule
  • The presumption that actus reus and mens rea is stronger is the offence is truely criminal
  • Statute must clearly exclude mens rea - wording can indicate this.
  • Presumption can be displaces in issues of 'social concern' or safety.

Examples of strict liability offences

  • Traffic offence
  • Food safety
  • Public disorders
  • possesion of a weapon
  • Health and safety
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Strict liability - advantages and disadvantages


  • Easy to prove as you dont need to prove mens rea only actus reus
  • Takes less time to convict as mens rea doesnt need to be proven
  • It pritects the public ad they were put in place to keep people safe
  • It encourages compliance
  • Makes regualtions straightforward


  • Somemay argue theres no evidence that people take more care to avoid harm to others because of strict liability
  • Punishing people regardless of mean rea seems unfair
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I find it difficult to remember Strict Liability but this has helped a lot. thankyou!

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