Crimnal Law - Actus Reus




Latin maxim, interpreted as 'gulity act'.

It is the prohibited conduct of the accused (Brown 1994), omission (Evans), only culpable if there is duty to act (common law/statutory), consequence (Mohan) or state-of affairs (Larsonneur/Winzar)

Imporant information: The act must be voluntary (not always required in statutory interpretation), unlike automatism  - something external - (Hill v Baxter) or any reflect action/physcial conpulstion/illness (if interrnal, s/he can only plead insanity, does not involve self-induced automatism.)

Cardinal principle

No act is punishbable unless it is with a criminal mind, Lord Coke states that  the blameworthy state of mind affects the conduct, thus making the person legally guilty; latin phrase 'actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea.'


In every case, the cause of the consequence, actus reus, required, be it factually or legally.

Factual causation (sine qua non, but for test)

But For Test

Only way to determine this is 'but for the defendant did, the outcome would not have occured?' But the law failed to adequately use the test in White, suggetsing a new test needed to be made to suit the criminal cases. The case has gone on to affect other cases e.g. Blaue(Jehovahs witness)/ Jordan (palpably wrong medical care)Chesire (chip shop shot)/Dolloway.

Legal causation (imputable causation)

Important information: Causation in fact does not always result to causation in law.

Operative and Substantial cause

The operative (Benge) and subtantial (de minimis) cause must be reasonably forseeable without an intervening event (Malcherek/Smith.)

Intervening acts (novus actus interveniens)

  • Defendants acts provided a setting, so the chain is broken (Smith)
  • If…


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