Mens Rea

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Mens Rea is the state of mind of the defendant at the time of the offence. The highest level of Mens Rea is intention.

  • Mohan
  • Defines intention as "the desire to bring about the prohibited consequence."

One of the problems with proving intention is where the defendants main aim was not the end consequence but in achieving the aim the defendant foresaw that he could also cause those consequences. This is known as Foresight of Consequences.

Foresight is evidence of intention not intention itself. A jury can find intention if the end result of the defendants actions was a virtual certainty.

  • Woollin
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Recklessness is the taking of an unjustifiable risk. It has to be proven that the defendant realised the risk and still decided to take it.

  • Cunningham
  • The defendant tore a gas meter from the wall of an empty house in order to steal the money in it. Gas seeped into the house next door and caused harm to a woman inside.
  • It was held that the defendant was not guilty as he did not realise the risk of gas escaping into the adjacent home.
  • Savage
  • Confirmed that the same principle applies to all offences where the definition in an Act of Parliament uses the word 'maliciously'
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Transferred Malice

This is the principle that the defendant can be guilty if he intended to commit a similar crime but against a different victim.

  • Latimer
  • The defendant aimed a blow at a man with a belt but instead hit a woman in the face.

However when the Mens rea is for a completely different offence then the defendant may not be guilty.

  • Pembilton
  • The defendant threw a stone intending to hit people. The stone hit and broke a window.
  • The intention to hit people could not be transferred to the window.
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In order for an offence to take place both the actus reus and the mens rea must be present at the same time.

Where there is a Continuing Act for the actus reus and at some point while the act is still going on the defendant has the necessary mens rea then the two coincide and the defendant will be guilty.

  • Fagan v Metropolitan Police Commissioner
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