Criminal Liability

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  • Created by: Erin
  • Created on: 22-05-13 16:03

Criminal Liability

Criminal Liability

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Key Words

Statutory Interpretation: The interestation of acts of parliament by judges

  • parliament make legislation
  • judges apply it

Judicial Precedent: to stand by what has been decided

  • legal principlaes made my judges in the higher courts set a 'precedent' to be followed by that course and all courts below it in future cases
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Criminal Law

Criminal Law = the law that sets out definitions of individual crime

Actus Reus of the crime + Mens Rea of the crime = Defendant Liability

Actus Reus = guilty act

Mens Rea = guilty mind

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Actus Reus - Omissions

  • An omission cannot form part of the actus reus of a crime. The law only maes a person liable for his/her failure to act where he has a duty to act.
  • This includes discontinuance of medical treatment if it is in the best interests of patients.
  • There are exceptions to the rule: failure to act csn be actus reus.
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Battery - the unlawful application of force to another

Mens Rea: intention or subjective recklessness in applying the unlawful "unwanted touching" or unlawful physical violence

Actus Reus: applying the "unwanted touching" or unlawful physcial violence

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Assault - intentionally or reclklessly causing the victim fear immediate, unlawful harm

Mens Rea: Intention or sunjective recklessness that the victim will "apprehend unwanted touching". Usually this means they will fear unlwaful physcial violence. Recklessness means that the defendant must realise that his.her words and/or acts could cause the victim to apprehend the unwanted touching.

Actus Reus: Some acts or words. An omission is not enough.

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Strict Liability

Strict Liability - these are crimes defined as requiring an actus reus only; mens rea has no relevence

1) An Act of Parliamentt indicates means rea is needed. If an act maes it clear mens rea is not required, the offence will be one of strict liability EXAMPLE Sweet v Parsley (teacher rents cottage to students, students have drugs in cottage)

2) A truly criminal act

3) Public safety and concern EXAMPLE Blake (pritate radio station) Harrow London Borough Council v Shah (sells lottery ticket to 13yr old)

4) Encourages greater vigilance EXAMPLE Smedleys v Breed (caterpiller in can of peas)

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Transferred Malice

This is the principle that the defendant can be guilty if he/she intented to commit a similar crime but against a different victim e.g. mistaken identity or accident.

EXAMPLE Mitchell 1983 (man pushes elderly man who knocks elderly woman who dies)

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Coincidence of mens rea and actus reus

To be guilty of most crimes the defendant must perform the actus reus at the same time as having the apprpriate mens rea for the crime. The actus reus and must be present at the same time.

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Continuing Acts

The actus reus takes place over a period of time.

EXAMPLE: Thabo Meli

Beating --------> thrown off a cliff --------> dies of Exposure                                                                  (natural cause such as freezing)

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  • Homicide - defendants act caused the death of the victim
  • Offers against the person - defendants act must have caused the injury
  • Factual causation - 'But for' test EXAMPLE White (poisoning mother), Pagett (uses girlfriend as human shield)
  • Legal causation - operating and substantial cause. chain of causation must remain unbroken
  • Medical causation - sympathy for doctors (unless incorrect treatment) EXAMPLE Jordan (recovering, wrong injection given)
  • Novus Actus Interveniens - intervening acts (something breaks the chain)
  • "Thin skull rule" - take your victims as you find them EXAMPLE Blause (jehovah whitness refused blood transplant)
  • Victims own act - the defendant causes the victim to act in an unforceable way (doesnt break the chain, reasonable or unreasonable) EXAMPLE Roberts (reasonable, jumped out of car becuase drive was advancing sexually), Williams (jumped out of car becuase driver tried to take possessions)
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Aggravating & Mitigating

  • Aggrevating Factors - things that make the crime worse (previous convictions, use of weapons)
  • Mitigating Factors - things that made for a more lenient sentence (clean record, remourse, pleading guilty at start)
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Types of sentencing

Custodial sentences:

  • reserved for serious crimes
  • court has a 'maximum' avaliable (6months - 5years)
  • 'suspended sentence' - defendant is watched over a period of time

Community sentences:

  • alternative to prison
  • can be individualised (community service, curfew, tagging, exclusions from areas, attend courses e.g. AA, Anger management)

Financial sentences:

  • financial penalt (fixed penalty, max. fines £5000 in Magistrates Court)
  • compensation order (money to victim)
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Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OAPA)

SECTION 47 - least serious

  • ABH (actual bodily harm)
  • Triable either-way

EXAMPLE: Smith (cuts mans hair off)


  • GBH (grevious bodily harm, malicious wounding)
  • wounding - cut skin, blood loss
  • Triable either way - Crown Court or Magistrates Court

EXAMPLE: JCC v Eisenhower (pellet in eye, internal bleeding, no wound as didnt cut skin), Brown v Stratton (Transvestite beaten up, small injuries added up)

SECTION 18 - most serious

  • GBH + Intent
  • Triable on indictment - Crown Court

EXAMPLE: Belfon (slashed with a razor)

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Procedure - where will the cases be heard?

Summary Offences - Magistrates Court

Triable either - way - Corwn or Magistrates Court

Indictable Offences - Crown Court

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Procedure - Magistrates Court

  • Arrest
  • Search Warrant
  • Bail
  • Committal
  • Trying Case
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Procedure - Crown Court

  • Arrest
  • Search warrant
  • Bail
  • Committal
  • Trying Case
  • Indictable - murder
  • Sentence from Magistrates - appeal
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Bail Act 1976

In favour BUT...

  • serious offence means no bail
  • risk of further offences
  • influence with whitenss(es)

Granted by

  • Police
  • Magistrates Court
  • Crown Court


  • suerities (money)
  • curfew
  • hand in passport


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Punishment theories

  • Retribution - revenge
  • Deterrence - stop others commiting the same crime
  • Prevention - prevent further crimes to protect the public
  • Rehabilitation - to 'cure' the defendant
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Criminal Justice Act 2003

  • punish offenders
  • reduce crime
  • reform + rehabilitate
  • protect public
  • reparations (money)
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