Fatal Offences - Murder

Actus Reus and Mens Rea of Murder.


Actus Reus of murder.

Murder is the unlawful killing of a himan being with malice aforethought, it is a criminal offence and is when the defendant kills a victim. 

Actus Reus of Murder

Of sound memory and of the age of discretion - the defendant must be sane and over the age of 10 years.

Unlawfully killeth - the defendants actions havw caused the death and the prosecution must prove that the defendant caused the victims death.

Within any country of the realm - British Citizen this means you can be tried for murder in the UK even if you committed murder in another country.

Any reasonable creature in rerum natura - this means a person who is born and not dead, such as a baby in the womb. CASE: Attorney General's reference No.3 (1994).

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Actus Reus of murder continued

Under the kings peace - killing someone if that person was an enemy during war.

So that the party wounded or hurt dies within a year and a day - This use to mean that the person must die within a year and a day, but thhis made it difficult for the prosecution to prove causation and because of the advances in medical technology. It was abolished by the Law reform (year and a day rule) Act (1996) and was changed to any three years where any case with a gap of more than three years needed the permission of the Attorney General.

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Mens Rea of murder.

  • Mens Rea of murder means a malice aforethought, the defendant must intend to either kill or to cause grievious bodily harm. 
  • A person who carries out euthanasia is equally guilty of murder as a cold-blooded killer. This has been strongly criticised Opponents suggest it isn't fair to find a defendant guilty of murder when he or she didnt intent or foresee a loss of life. Others say if the defendant set out to cause serious harm then they must face the consequences.
  • Both direct and indirect intention satisfy the Mens Rea of murder but this was only finally determind by the case: Hyam v DPP (1975).
  • The Court of Appeal decided that if the defendant realisesthat death or GBH would be certain then the jury must find that he or she intended to cause the result.
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Evaluation of murder.

  • One problem with the law is that it has been in existence for centuries and has barely changed in that time to reflect current thinking.
  • Others have changed a number of times resulting in uncertainty.
  • The problems with Mens Rea is that there isn't a clear defenition of intentions resulting in juries making different decisions within cases with similar facts.
  • The problem with the life sentence is that the judge is unable to pass sentences appropriate to the circumstances of the case such as a mercy killing of an ill relative.
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Leo Rowdan


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