AS LAW UNIT 2 ELEMENTS OF A CRIME (Section A)

ELEMENTS OF A CRIME.

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Actus Reus

* Actus Reus- Guilty mind

* It's Voluntary which means that the Defendant must have control over his own body.

Examples of voluntary acts- Fainting

                                            - Epileptic Seizure

                                            - Heart Attack- How extreme it is.

Hill v Baxter- The judge tells a story of a person driving with the window rolled down. A swarm of bees fly in, they let go of the steering wheel, mounts up on a pavement and kills a passer-by. They would not be guilty because they had no control over their own body and it's also a natural reaction. 

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Omissions

Omissions means a failure to act.

General Rule- People are not usually criminally liable for omissions.
Exception to the General Rule- Can be liable where there is a duty to act.

1) A Contractual Duty- People are entered in a contract to do things. (In the exam you do at least 3 types of duties) R v Pittwood:
Mr Pittwood was under a duty as a Railway crossing keeper. His job was to close the gate when a train was near. He failed to do this and a man went over the tracks and died. 
He failed to do his duty & was therefore guilty of manslaughter

2) Making a Dangerous Situation- R v Miller:
Mr Miller was squatting in a house. He was drunk and fell asleep with a cigarette in his mouth. It fell on the mattress and set fire to it. He woke up and saw that there was fire but he went into another room and slept. He was therefore guilty of arson because he had created a dangerous situation but he had failed to do something about it.  

3) Duty Arising From an Official Position- R v Dytham:
Mr Dytham was a police officer. He ignored an attack that was happening therefore he failed to do his duty and also failed to look after a person. 

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Causation

* For a crime where it must be proved that a result happened
* Then it must be proved that the defendant caused the result.

1) FACTUAL CAUSATION (BUT FOR TEST) 
It must be shown that the result would not have happened 
BUT FOR
the actions of the defendant

R v Paggett:
My Paggett used his pregnant girlfriend as a human shield while he shot at policemen. A policeman shot his girlfriend and she died. Mr Paggett was guilty of manslaughter. The pregnant girlfriend would not have died but for Mr paggett using her as a human shield. 

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Chain of Causation

* There must be a direct link between the defendant's actions and the result.

Chain of causation can be broken by Novus Actus Interveneins (Intervening Events).
1) Actions of a third party
2) Actions of the victim
3) A natural but unpredictable event

1) ACTIONS OF A THIRD PARTY 
R v Jordan: The defendant stabbed the victim. He was taken to hospital where he was given an antibiotic he was allergic to and more than 1 drip. He died of pneumonia but at the time of death his wounds were starting to heal.
R v Smith: A solider was stabbed in the lungs and was taken to the hospital. On the way, he was dropped two times. He was given an artificial respiration which caused him death. The medical treatment was so bad it was 75% less likely for him to survive. However the original attacker was guilty of murder. 


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Chain of Causation Continued...

2) ACTIONS OF THE VICTIM
R v Roberts:
 Mr Roberts was making sexual advances towards the victim. She then jumped out of the car of a moving vehicle and suffered from injuries. The defendant was guilty because jumping out of a car & suffering injuries was in proportion to the defendant's sexual advances.
R v Williams: Mr William picked up a hitch hiker. On the way the hitch hiker jumped out of the car. He hit his head and died. The prosecution said he did this because Mr William was trying to take his wallet. But jumping out of a car because of the driver trying to steal his wallet was out of proportion to the threat. Mr Williams was not guilty.

3) A NATURAL BUT UNPREDICTABLE EVENT
* Flood
* Earthquakes
* Falling Tree 

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Exception to the General Rule of Intervening Event

THIN SKULL RULE

The defendant must take the victim as he finds him.

* Hidden medical condition does not break the chain of causation. 

R v Blaue:
Mr blaue stabbed a victim and was taken to hospital. The victim was a Jehovah's witness. Her religion forbade blood transfusions. She died. Mr blaue was liable for the girl's death because he had to take the victim as he found her. 

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Mens Rea

Mens Rea - Guilty Mind
the person must have the required level of MR in order for them to be guilty.

Two different levels of MR:
* Intention- Higher level
* Recklessness- Lower level 

Subjective- through the eyes of the defendant.

Intention- taking a decision.
Mohan:
 Intention is 'a decision to bring about the consequence no matter whether the accused wanted tht consequence or not.' 

Direct Intent- A person directly intends to do something- this means he decides to cause the result.
Indirect Intent- A person indirectly intends to do something if the result was not his main aim and the result is an inevitable byproduct of achieving his main aim. 
THE JURY decides that the defendant intended to cause the result.

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Mens Rea continued...

For the defendant to be guilty of a crime * the result must be virtually certain and * the defendant must foresee that the result was virtually certain.

R v Nedrick: Mr Nedrick was angry at the victim so he poured paraffin through her letterbox to get her scared. The house was caught on fire and killed a child in there. He was not guilty of murder because he did not intend to kill the baby. The death of the child was not a virtual certainty.
R v Woollin: Mr Woollin threw his 3 month baby on the near 6 ft away from the pram. The child died but he was not guilty of murder (but manslaughter) because he did not intend to kill his baby. The result was not a virtual certainty & Mr Woollin did not realise that it was a virtual certainty that the baby would die.

Recklessness means taking an unjustifiable risk- know of the risk but decided to take it.

R v Cunningham: Mr cunningham tore off a gas meter off the wall to steal money from it. The gas escaped to the neighbour's house which made a woman very ill. He was not guilty because he was not aware of the risk of the gas escaping when he tore the gas meter off the wall. He had learning difficulties.

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Coincidence of AR & MR

General Rule: If a person is going to be guilty, the AR & MR must "coincide"- happen at the same time.
If they do not happen at the same time then the person is not guilty.
Exceptions to the General Rule:
  Continuing Act
   Series of Events. 

 Continuing Act- Even if the AR/MR starts after the MR/AR they both can still coincide.
Fagon v Metropolitan Police Commissioner:
 The defendant reversed on a policeman's foot. The policeman yelled at him to move his car but he didn't, even when he had realised. He then moved the car. The mens rea happened after the actus reus. Mr Fagon was still guilty of assault because the AR was still continuing & then the MR was present at the same time.

Series of Events- Events cannot be separated. Even if the MR & AR take place at different time amongst the series of events, they may have said to "coincide" when the crime was committed. 
R v Thabo Meli: The victim was beaten up by the defendants. They assumed he was dead so they threw him off the cliff. The defendants were guilty of murder because eventhough the AR & Mens Rea happened at different times, the things that happened were a series of events & could not be divided up. 

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Transferred Malice

* Defendant means to commit a crime against one person but actually commits a same crime against another then the MR CAN be transferred. 
R v Latimer: Mr Latimer aimed a belt at someone. The belt hit the victim who was severely injured. Mr Latimer was guilty of assaulting a woman because his MR could have transferred from the man to the woman. 

Defendant means to commit one offence but actually commits a completely different kind of offence then the MR CANNOT be transferred. 
R v Pembliton:
 Mr pembliton was angry because people were calling him names. He threw a stone at them but missed and broke a window. Mr Pembliton was guilty of criminal damage. His intention to hit people could not be transferred to a window. Breaking a window is a different offence to hitting someone with stones.

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Strict Liability

* The ACTUS REUS only needs to be proved!
* Often "regulatory" offences- everyday offences- less serious 
* Minor offences = QUASI-CRIMES
e.g. Speeding, Parking on double yellow lines, selling out of date food. 
 

Harrow London Borough Council v Shah: Mr Shah put notices on his shop window that lottery tickets were not to be sold to people under the age of 16. He also told his employees. But one of the employees sold a lottery ticket to a 13 year old boy. Mr Shah was guilty of selling a lottery ticket to him. The decision was unfair because he did not commit this. He had no MR but the Actus Reus was there.


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How Does the Court decide Whether a Crime is Stric

1) If a statute says that a crime is.
e.g. possession of an illegal weapon- S1 prevention of Crime Act 1953.


2) If the courts decide it is.
The courts will look at:
* The seriousness of the crime- serious/Quasi-crime
* Wording of the statute
* Does offence protect the public?
* Seriousness of the punishment- more serious, less likely to be a SLC 

Sweet v Parsley:  Mrs Parsley rented her house to a couple of students for the holidays. They used the house to store cannabis which Mrs Parsley did not know of. Mrs Parsley was not guilty of the crime because she had no mens rea. It was not a Strict liability crime because the mens rea had to be proved. A crime of using a house for the purposes of smoking cannabis can ruin their reputation. 

 

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Advantages and Disadvantages of SLC

ADVANTAGES: 
- Can protect Society
- Food safety/ safety in workplace- cannot argue that they have no mens rea.
- Easier to find a person guilty of SLC- public are protected, saves time & money.

DISADVANTAGES:
- People who are not to blame can be found guilty, e.g. Mr Shah.
- No evidence that Strict liability improves standards when imposed for health & safety reasons.
- Courts have been inconsistent in their attitude towards Strict Liability Offences.
- Criminal conviction imposed.
- Punishment for some Strict liability offences may be severe. 

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Comments

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