AQA Law 02 criminal liability and non fatal offences


Criminal Liability

To prove someone is guilty of committing a crime the prosecution have to establish 'beyond reasonable doubt'(standard of proof) that:

  • the accused committed the criminal act: Actus Reus

  • they had the required state of mind: Mens Rea

Actus Reus : The physical element/act of a crime, e.g. for murder it’s ‘the unlawful killing of a human being’

  • It must be a voluntary act, so under the control of D. This came from the case of Hill v Baxter, with the hypothetical scenario of a driver being attacked by a bee vs by a swarm of bees.

  • ‘Result crimes’ are the act + consequence, so the defendants actions directly caused the result.

  • AR can occur when it’s in the circumstances of the crime (usually strict liability offences) so in a ‘state of affairs’ rather than in an action e.g. possession of drugs. Larsonneur (D illegally in UK) Windzar (D drunk on highway)

  • If the crime has been committed under duress (threat of serious violence or death) it's not AR.

Causation : The link between the act and consequence for a crime has to be proven.

  • The act must be both the factual (is a cause so that ‘but for’ D’s action, consequence wouldn’t have happened. Found within facts of case and must be more than a tiny cause) White (D poisoned mother who died before poison could take effect) and legal cause of crime (must be a substantial and operating cause) Cheshire (V shot but died from complications with breathing tube)

  • Intervening acts will only break chain if they’re unforeseeable, Pagett (D used pregnant girlfriend as shield and opened fire on police, is foreseeable they’ll fire back)

  • A novus actus interveniens (a new intervening act) can break the chain of causation as long as it is unforeseeable and serious, and may therefore compromise who is responsible for the outcome. Can be by:

  • A natural or unpredictable event e.g. an earthquake.

  • The victim's own act (’escape cases’) : chain not broken as long as V’s actions are foreseeable Roberts (foreseeable that V may jump from car to escape sexual advances) VS Williams (unforeseeable that V may jump from car when driver tried to steal wallet.

  • An act of a third party: In medical cases the act must be palpably wrong to break the chain. If original wound is still the substantial cause, any actions by doctor (even if negligent) won't break chain. If original wound is setting where another cause operates then will break chain R v Smith (V’s chest compressions caused internal bleeding due to broken ribs, didn't break the chain as it was not as serious as the original wound) Similarly in R v Cheshire (V died of complications with a tracheotomy but didn’t exceed seriousness of original stab wound) R v Malcherek (V’s life support machine was turned off but the actions of the hospital were not as serious as the husband's act of stabbing her) R v Jordan (V administered a drug causing a serious allergic


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