Strict liability offences are those that do not require a mens rea.
Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Storkwain Ltd (1986) – The defendant was charged under s58(2) of the Medicines Act 1968 which states that no one can supply drugs to anyone without a prescription. The defendant supplied drugs on prescription, but the prescription later turned out to be forged, but of good enough quality to totally fool the pharmacist. The defendants were still guilty because there is no necessary mens rea for this offence.
As a general rule it must be proved that the defendant carried out the relevant actus reus voluntarily. This is not always the cast though, in absolute liability offences there is no need to prove mens rea nor that the defendant carried out the actus reus voluntarily. This was shown in:
Larsonneur (1933) – The defendant who was from a foreign country (and was therefore termed an ‘alien’, in the language of the time) had been ordered to leave the UK. She decided to go to Ireland, but the Irish police deported her and took her in police custody back to the UK where she was arrested by UK police. She did not want to return to the UK, and had no mens rea but was still found guilty under the Aliens Order 1920.
Winzar v Chief Constable of Kent (1983) – The defendant was taken to hospital on a stretcher, but when he was examined by doctors they found that he was not ill but drunk. The defendant was told to leave the hospital, but was later found slumped on a seat in a corridor. The police were called and they took the defendant to the roadway outside the hospital. They formed the opinion that he was drunk so they put him in the police car, drove him to the police station and charged him with being found drunk on a highway, The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction despite the fact that the defendant had not gone to the highway voluntarily.
Absolute liability cases are extremely rare.
As a general rule, the priority for courts is to find that the defendant had the mens rea for the offence. If they decide that the statute does not require mens rea for at least part of the crime, the priority shifts onto the actus reus (Unless the offence has absolute liability).
Prince (1875) – Prince knew that the girl he took was in the possession off her father but believed, on reasonable grounds, that she was aged 18. He was convicted.
Hibbert (1869) – The defendant met a girl aged 14 on the street. He took her to another place where they had sexual intercourse; he did not know that the girl was in the possession of her father. He was acquitted.
Both of these defendants were charged under s55 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 which states that it is an offence to take a girl under the age…