The key elements of criminal liability are;
- Actus reus - guilty act of the defendant
- Mens rea - guilty mind of the defendant
- Coincidence in time - Thabo-meli v Queen
- Coincidence in Law - R v Taafe
Actus reus is guilty act of the defendant (D). This includes voluntary act, omission and causation.Voluntary act is a deliberate act, D's own free will e.g. s18, intention to cause GBH. However involuntary act is an act over which a person has no control over, and therefore a person can't be hold liable for an involuntary act. Hill v Baxter states some of the situation of involuntary act e.g. D is driving a car and sneezes, as a result of which an accident occurs. The action was a reflex action, therefore no liability.
Omission is failure to act when a duty to act. a person can only be liable if s/he has a duty to act and fails to fo so. There are five key duty situations:
1. where a person has duty to act under a contract e.g. Pittwood case, where a gatekeeper left the railway tract gate open and a person died as a result of it. 2. where a person has a duty under the public service e.g. the police as in Dytham case, where a police didn't took any action while his friend hit another person. 3. where an Act of Parliamnet requires it e.g. Children and Young Person Act. 4. where the result occured from D's own conduct e.g. Millers case. 5. where a person voluntarily takes the responsibility e.g. Stone and Dobinson case
Actus reus; Causation
The defendant must have caused the consequence or result required by the offence, is causation.
Two types of caustaion:
Factual causation; this is the 'But for' test - but for the D's conduct, would the result have occured. In the case of R v White, where D tried to kill his mother by putting cynide in her drink but late she died of a natural cause. D was convicted of attemptted murder only.
Legal causation; where we need to show whether D is also legally liable, so that no innocent person is found guilty. R v Smith, sets out the 'Operative and substantial cause' test. Occording to this we must prove that D's conduct was the main reason of V's sufferings.
Chain of causation
Chain of causation is the link between the defendant's act and the consequences occured as a result.
This can be either broken by the Victim or the unforseeable events. For example R v Robberts, where V jumped from a driving car, when D tried to sexually abuse V. D was held liable as the victim's reaction was reasonable. The chain of causation would have been broken if V's reaction was unreasonable.
The thin skull rule, which states take your victim as you find him e.g. R v Blaue, where V was stabbed with a knife and had lost alot of blood. she refused any blood transfusion as it was against her religion, and later she died as a result. Even though she could've been saved if she had the blood transfusion and it was V who refused it. D was still hold liable for V's death.
Chain of causation is broken where a new intervening act/ event takes place that becomes the main reason for the consequence than the initial act/event. e.g. R v Jordan where V was taken to hospital after being stabbed by D. However he recovered and later died of poor medical treatment 'palpably wrong', which broke the cain of causation.