Basic elements of crime - Mens Rea

Intentions, recklessness, Transferred malice and contemporaneity.

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Mens Rea

  • Mens Rea means guilty mind and concerns the criminal intention of the defendant when the Actus Reus is committed.


  • Mens Rea distinguishes between those who commit the Actus Reus of an offence accidentally and those who take an unjustifiable risk of harm or who deliberately set out to commit a crime.


  • The most commonly required types of Mens Rea are intentions and Direct intentions.
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Intentions - Many crimes require that the defendant had the necessary intent when committing the offence.

Direct Intentions

  • This means that the defendant set out to acheive a particular result or cosequence.
  • Some explained as the defendant foresaw a particular result as a certainty and wanted to bring it about.

Indirect Intentions

  • A defendant will claim that he or she didn't intend the result of his or her actions and indeed did not want it to occur, if this is so the defendant is not guilty and must be acquitted.
  • The problem occurs when the result was virtually certain to occur, even though the defendant didnt want it to happen, they went ahead anyway. Case: R v Moloney (1985), R v Hancock and Shankland (1986), R v Nedrick (1986).
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Mens Rea - Recklessness

  • When a defendant takes an unjustifiable risk, and knows the risks they are taking.


  • This is discovered by conducting a Subjective test.


  • There were previously two types of recklessness, subjective and objective but objective is now extinct following the case of R v G and Another.


  • So this is when the defendant takes an unjustifiable risk. 


  • Case: R v Cunningham (1957), R v G and Another (2003),
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Transferred malice and contemporaneity.

Transferred malice

  • The defendant is usually guilty if they have committed the Actus Reus and Mens Rea of a crime but sometimes there may be an unexpected turn of events such as killing the wrong person.


  • The defendant may argue that while the Actus Reus relates to the actual victims there was no Mens Rea. The court are unwilling to find that the defendant is not guilty in such a situation so they developed the doctrine of transferred malice.


  • However if the defendant with the Mens Rea of one crime commits the actus reus of another the position changes.

Case: R v Latimer (1886), R v Pembliton (1874).

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