Mens Rea


Mens Rea

  • Mens Rea is the 2nd element that must be proved
  • Mens Rea is the 'guilty state of mind'
  • Some crimes only require proof of the Actus Reus and no Mens Rea is needed, these offences are: Strict Liability Offences and Absaloute Offences
  • Mens Rea is tested subjectivly 
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Mens Rea.. what is needed to prove it

Direct Intention - D's main aim was to bring about the consequence (Mohan), e.g. D's main aim was to murder V, and he did; therefore he has direct intention.

Indirect Intention - the consequence was not D's main aim BUT it was virtually certain that D's conduct would bring about the consequence AND D knew that. (Woollin 1997); D threw a baby against a wall towards its cot, the baby hit the wall and died, it could not be proved that D knew his conduct was virtually certain to cause GBH; so D was not guilty.

Recklessness - D took an unjustified risk. In Cunningham (1957) the court said D is reckless when he realises there is a risk of a particular thing occuring but goes onto take that risk anyway. 

When carrying out his act/omission, D realised there was a risk of a particular thing occuring.

Cunningham (1957); D ripped a gas meter from a wall to get money, the pipe broke and posioned the woman next door, he did not realise there was a risk of that particular thing happening so he was not reckless.

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Strict Liability Offence

This does not require some/all of the Mens Rea

In Gammon (1984) CA confirmed the ruling by HL in Sweet v Parsley (1971) that there are two types of crimes: Purely Criminal and Regulatory.

Where D is charged with a Purely Criminal Offence and the AR was unclear about the MR, the court must pressume the MR is needed.

Sweet v Parsley (1971); D's conviction managing premises used for drug taking was overturned, D had no MR which was needed for the Purely Criminal Offence.

Regulatory Offences - MR not needed where the offence is a matter of social concern. Harrow LBC v Shah; D's conviction for selling a lottery ticket to a person under age even though he believed that the person was over 16 was upheld as it was a matter of social concern and so a regulatory offence.

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Ads of Strict Liability Offences

  • Ensures the public are protected from harmful foods. Smedleys v Breed; a manufacturer was found guilty after 4 cans of peas were found contaminated with cattapillars.
  • The enviroment is protected from pollution. Alphacell; D was convicted of polluting rivers even though he did not know his pumps were blocked.
  • Bad publicity following a conviction deters others from lowering their standards.
  • The penalty is often a fine.
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Disads of Strict Liability Offences

  • Some penalties are severe (Harrow LBC v Shah); for selling a lottery ticket to someone under age carried a max sentence of 2 years imprisonment.
  • It is unjust to impose liability when a person has taken all due care, so it goes against the principle that only those at fault should be convicted of a crime (Smedley v Breed); D took all possible care to prevent his cans from being contaminated but was still convicted. 
  • The courts often find difficuilty in identifying Strict Liability Offences.
  • There is no evidence to show it promotes higher standards.
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Doctrine of Transferred Malice

  • What would the courts do is A wants to commit a crime against B, but accidently performs it on C? 
  • Under the Doctrine of Transferred Malice A's MR towards B, would be transferred and treated as being towards C.
  • As stated by Lord Mustill in A-G Ref (no 3 of 1994)(1997): ''the effect of transferred malice is that the intended V and the actual V are treated as if they were one.''
  • Transferred Malice can only be applied if A commits the same crime on C that he would have committed on B.
  • In Latimer (1886) D swung a belt at X but missed and hit V, the MR was transferred and held towards the actual victim, so D was still guilty.
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Coincidence of AR and MR - Continuing Act

  • The Actus Reus and Mens Rea should occur at the same time, if they do not the courts may find liability for a continuing act.
  • In Fagan (1969) D drove onto a police mans foot without knowning, at the time of driving onto his foot, D had committed the AR but had no MR. When the policeman asked the D to remove the vehicle the D did not he remained stationary, when remaining stationary the D had the MR but had not committed the AR. So in theory D had not comitted the offence, but the courts treated his acts as a continuing act and D was guilty.
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