Law02 Concept of Liability Section A+B

  • Created by: JOEL
  • Created on: 07-04-14 23:04

Law02: concept of liability

Criminal liability

Actus reus

The conduct or state of affairs which a particular offence prohibits, i.e. the guilty act.

The actus reus is usually committed through a voluntary act, taking into account of the surrounding circumstances, e.g. causing death by dangerous driving (which is a result crime).

It can consist of an act, e.g. in Hill v Baxter, when the court discussed example of when the driver of a car would not be driving voluntarily. These include being stung by a swarm of bees.

®  Such actions would not account to actus reus and therefore the defendant could not be guilty.

Actus reus also concerns omissions.



 Failing to act’

‘Legal’ duty upon an individual to act.

 Assuming responsibility:

Reasonable step to care for the individual, ­R v Stone & Dobinson, found guilty of manslaughter, failed to provide sufficient care.

Creating a dangerous situation:

Legal obligation to take reasonable steps to reduce the danger, R v Miller, found guilty of arson, failed to put the fire out or call emergency services.

ƒ Contractual:

Legal obligation to follow contract, R v Pittwood, found guilty of manslaughter, failed to carry out task given to him.


Legal obligation to look after children/partner, R v Gibbons & Proctor, found guilty of murder, failed to provide reasonable care.

Where an act of Parliament expressively states that one will be required to act:

Road Traffic Act 1988, e.g. not wearing a seatbelt; failing to give a specimen test



Two types of causation: factual and legal.

Factual causation: where the courts and police have to establish that the factual evidence leads to a consequence; White (1910). It could not be established that the death would not have occurred but for White’s actions.

Legal causation: actually have to contribute significantly to injures, i.e. how involved a person is. However the chain of causation can be broken by: an act of a third party; the V’s own act; a natural but unpredictable event; medical negligence.

Third parties ~ R v Pagett. Where the D’s conduct causes foreseeable action by a third party, then the D is likely to be held to have caused the consequence.

Medical negligence ~ R v Cheshire / R v Smith / R v Jordon. Medical negligence is unlikely to break the chain of causation unless it is so independent of the D’s act and such a powerful cause of death in itself.

Victim’s own conduct ~ R v Roberts / R v Williams / R v Blaue. If the D causes the V to react in a foreseeable way, then any injury to the V will have been caused by the D.

Mens rea

The mens  rea  is the guilty mind or the intention to commit a crime.  Consists of intention and recklessness.

Direct intention: where the result of the defendant's actions was their aim or desire. This is the same as the everyday definition of intention. R v Mohan.

Indirect intention:


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