Strict Liability

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Strict Liability

Offences of Strict Liability are those where the defendant is guilty because he did the actus reus. There is no need to prove mens rea.

  • Larsonneur
  • Shah
  • The defendants owned a newsagents where lottery tickets were sold. Despite taking precautions possible one of their staff sold a lottery ticket to a 13 year old boy without asking for proof of age.
  • The defendants were guilty and did not require any mens rea.
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Offences of Strict Liability

Where an Act of Parliament does not include any words indicating a mens rea the judges wil start by presuming that all offences require a mens rea.

  • Sweet v Parsley
  • The defendant rented a farmhouse and let it out to students. The police found cannabis on the premises and the defendant was charged with 'being concerned in the management of premises used for smoking cannabis resin'
  • As the defendant did not know that cannabis was being smoked there it was decided that she was not guilty.

It is possible for judges to decide an offence is one of strict liability. This usually happens where there is an issue o social concern.

Where an offence is truly criminal it is unlikely the judges will decide it is a strict liability offence.

  • G
  • Defendant was charged at 15 for having sexual relations with a 12 year old. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 this offence is one of strict liability.
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Advantages

  • Strict liability offences help protect society by promoting greater care over matters of public safety
  • Encourages higher standards in hygiene in processing and selling food. Including selling out of date food.
  • Strict liability is easier to enforce as there is no need to prove mens rea.
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Disadvantages

  • The main argument against strict liability is that it makes people liable who are not blameworthy. Even those who have taken all possible care will be found guilty and can be punished as seen in the case of Shah.
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