Criminal liability - actus reus

What is the translation of actus reus?
Guilty act
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What does the actus reus have to be?
Voluntary and carried out by D who has some control over his physical actions
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What is actus reus (phrase)?
The voluntary act or omission which causes the end result
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Which scenarios are ruled by the courts as involuntary actions?
Sneezing; having a swarm of bees in your car
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What is a physical act?
D may commit a positive action which causes the end result.
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What is an omission?
When a person has a legal duty and fails to act.
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R v. Gibbons and Proctor (1918)
Duty due to the relationship between D and the victim: guilty of manslaughter for not feeding their child.
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R v. Pittwood (1902)
Duty to act due to contract of employment: gatekeeper had a duty to shut the barriers of a level crossing and a car was hit by a train. Guilty of manslaughter.
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R v. Stone and Dobinson (1977)
Duty to act through taking on a duty voluntarily: Stone's sister was invited to stay with them as she had anorexia. She died because they failed to look after her and were liable for her death as they assumed responsibility for her as they took her i
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R v. Naughton (2001)
Duty to act through official position: off duty police officer failed to intervene when a friend got into a fight. Convicted of misconduct in a public office.
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R v. Miller (1983)
Duty to act where the defendant creates a danger and fails to do anything to remove the harm: Miller caught the mattress on fire (squatter) but failed to act so he was convicted of criminal damage.
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What needs to be established for many criminal offences?
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What do courts look at when considering whether or not D's act or omission caused the consequence?
Causation in fact, causation in law
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What's causation in fact?
Whether the actions of D were the factual cause of the consequence. It uses the 'but for' test.
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What's the 'but for' test?
But for D's actions, the result would not have happened.
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R v. Pagett (1933)
Used his girlfriend as a human shield whilst firing at the police. The police returned the shoots killing his girlfriend. But for Pagett using his girlfriend as a human shield, she wouldn't have died.
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R v. White (1910)
A son put cyanide in his mother's tea but she died of a heart attack before drinking. He intended of killing her, 'but for' his actions, his mother would have still died (doesn't work). He was still convicted of attempted murder.
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R v. Cato (1976)
'SLIGHT OR TRIFLING LINK' between D's actions and the end result.
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What is causation in law?
Looks to establish a chain of causation from D's actions to the end result.
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What happens if a chain of causation is established?
It will be deemed to have caused the end result.
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What is novus actus interveniens?
A new intervening act; other things have amounted to break the chain of causation so D didn't cause the end result.
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R v. Smith (1959)
A soldier stabbed another solider with a bayonet; victim was dropped twice on the way to hospital and received poor medical treatment. Wasn't enough to break the chain of causation. The initial wound was the 'OPERATING AND SUBSTANTIAL' CAUSE
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R v. Cheshire (1991)
Victim was recovering in hospital after being attacked by D but complications led them to die. D's actions were a 'SIGNIFICANT CAUSE' of death so didn't break the chain of causation.
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R v. Jordan (1959)
Jordan stabbed a man but the Court held that the medical treatment given to the victim was so bad it could be considered to have caused the death. The negligent treatment was "so potent in causing death".
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R v. Blaue (1975)
Blaue stabbed his girlfriend four times but she refused the blood transfusion because she was a Jehovah's Witness. The victim would not have been in hospital 'but for' Blaue's actions. Principle is the EGGSHELL SKULL rule.
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What is the eggshell skull rule?
If you hit someone with a thin skull, you are still liable for the damages even though they are worse than expected.
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R v. Roberts (1975)
Victim received a lift from D and he made sexual advances on her which caused her to jump out of the car, getting ABH. D claimed that V's actions amounted to the NIA and that he didn't foresee a risk of ABH. Court held:didn't matter if D foresaw risk
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What does the actus reus have to be?


Voluntary and carried out by D who has some control over his physical actions

Card 3


What is actus reus (phrase)?


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Card 4


Which scenarios are ruled by the courts as involuntary actions?


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Card 5


What is a physical act?


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