Criminal law - Unit 2
AS -Unit 2 Criminal Law
Terms in this set (39)
Criminal liability arises if a criminal act has occured adna lso where there has been a failure to act. This means actus reus will cover both acts and omissions
Kay v Butterworth 1945
The accused was found guilty of careless driving even though he had fallen asleep at the time the accident occured. at some point he had continued to drive whilst feeling sleepy and this was deemed to be a voluntary act.
R v Jarmain 1946
During a robbery J pointed a loaded pistol at a cashier knowing that it had no safety catch, and only needed a light touch on the trigger. The cashier told J to 'go away', this was upsetting him and he stated that in his panic he involuntarily pressed the trigger and the cashier was killed. The court declined to regard J's las action separately from the rest of the transaction. The death was caused by pointing a loaded pistol at point blank range and this had been done voluntarily.
R v Cogdon 1951
Mrs C had a record of bizaire dreams and of excessive worry about her 19 year old daughter. Mrs C dreamt that the Korean war was happening in her house, and that a Korean soldier was attacking her daughter who was in bed. In the state of somnambulism she took an axe to the 'soldier' thereby killing her daughter. She successgully pleaded that her act was involuntary was acquitted from a charge of murder.
R v Pagett 1983
The accused held a girl in front of him as a shield and fired at the police. The police returned fire and the girl was killed the court held that the police action was involuntary and the accused's actions could be said to have killed the girl.
Criminal liability may arise where the accused has failed to act. There are three main situations where it must be decided whether an act or omission has occurred.
1) Continuing acts. Fagan v Metropoliton Police Comissioner 1969
D was told by a police officer to park his car close to the kerb he obeyed the order, but in doing so he accidently drove his car onto the constable's foot. The constable shouted, "get off, you are on my foot", the D replied, "**** you, you can wait" and turned off the fnition. He was convicted of assulting the constable in the execution of his duty, he appealed on the grounds that at the eim he commited the act of driving onto the officers foot he lacked mens rea, and though he had mens rea where he refused to remove the car, this was an omission and the actus resu required an act. the appeal was dismissed. Driving on to the officers foot and staying there was a continious act.
R v Kaitamaki 1985
D was charged with rape and his defence was that at the time of penetration he thought she was consenting. However, he did not withdraw when he realised that she was not consenting. The court held that the actus reus of rape was a continiouing act and he was therefore convicted.
2) Supervening fault.
A person who is aware that he or she has done something which has endangered another's life or property and does nothing to prevent the relevant harm occuring may be criminally liable. where someone creates a dangerous situation they may be under a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent of minimise the harmful consequence.
R v Miller 1983
D was squatting in a building. He fell asleep on a mattress with a lighted cigarette. He woke up to find the matress on fire. Instead of raising the alarm or attempting to put the fire out he moved into another bedroom and went back to sleep. He was convicted of arson.
3) Offences capable of being committed by omission
Murder and manslaughter may be committed by omission but assault can not be. Where an offence is capable in law of being committed by an omission, it can only be committed by a person who was under a duty to act e.g. parent/child relationship. A duy to act may also be imposed where someone voluntarily accepts responsibility for another
R v Stone and Dobinson 1977
S and D lived together; they were of low intelligene, partially deaf and blind. S's sister came to live with them abd was bedridden. Although S and D knew that the woman was neglecting herself and her condition was deteriorating they did nothing to assist her or summon help. She later died and they were convicted of manslaughter. The Court of Appeal stated that the couple had assumed the duty of caring for the woman who they could have discharged either by caring for her themselves or summoning help.
In order for the actus reus of the offence to be established the prosecution must prove that the death or injury of the victum was caused by the defendant's act. Defendants can only be held responsible for a criminal act where their acts (or omissions) are both a FACTUAL and LEGAL cause of the victums' death or injury.
Many of the cases in this simple area relate to fatal offences i.e. someone is killed. However, this area of law applies equally to fatal and non-fatal offences
The following needs to be proved to establish factual causation.
- That but for the conduct of the accused the victim would not have died or been injured as and when he or she did.
R v White 1910
D put postassium cyanide into a drink with the intent to murder his mother. She was found dead shortly afterwards. The medical evidence showed that she has died of a heart attack not from poison. D was acquitted of murder and convicted of attempted murder.
That the original injury ariing from the defendant's conduct must have been more than a minimal cause of the victums death i.e. de minimus rule. The accused's act has accelerated death or injury i.e. death has occured earlier than would be expected.
This may be proved in any one of the following three ways:
- the original injury was an operative cause of death.
R v Smith 1959
In the course of a fight between soldiers of different regiments, D stabbed P twice with a bayonet. He was carried by friends to the medical officer and was dropped twice on route. The MO was trying to cope with several cases and did not realise that the wound had pierced a lung and caused a haemorrhage. He gave the victim treatment which in the light of the information regarding his condition avaliable at the time of the trial was "throughly bad and might well have affected his chance of recovery." However, D's conviction was upheld.
The court held that if at the time of death the original wound is still an operating and substantial cause of death, then the death can properly be said to be the result of the wound. Only if the second cause is so overwhelming as to make the original wound merely part of the history can it be said that death does not flow from the wound. Therefore, to remoce a defendant's liability the medical treatment must have killed quite independently of the wound and must be grossly negligent.
R v Cheshire 1991
D shot the victim in the leg and seriously wounded him. As a result of negligenct medical treatment he developed complications affecting his breathing and eventually died. His leg and stomach wounds were no longer life threatening at the time of his death. D was convicted of murder and his appeal was dismissed. The court held that negligent medical treatment could only break the chain of causation if i was so independent of the defendant's actsm and such a powerful cause of death in itself, that the contribution made by the defendant's acts was insignificant.
- The intervening act was reasonably foreseeable.
An intervening act which is reasonably foreseeable will not break the chain of causation. For an example if the defendant knocks the victim unconscious, and leaves him or her lying on a beach, it is reasonably foreseeable that when the tide comes in, the victim will drown, and the defendant will have caused that death.
R v Pagett 1983
D was attempting to escape being captured by armed police, and used his girlfriend as a human shield. He fired at the police and his girlfriend was killed by shots fired at him in self defence by the policemen. The court held that it was reasonably foreseeable that the police would shoot back and hit the girl, and therefore the defendant was held liablefor her death. It was later proved in a civil action that the policemen had acted negligently.
R v Corbett 1996
A mentally handicapped man had been drinking heavily all day with the defendant. An argument ensured and the defendant started to hit and head but the victim, who ran away. The victim fell into the gutter and was struck and killed by a car. At D's trial for manslaughter the judge directed that he was the cause of the victim's death if the victim's conduct of running away was within the range of foreseeable responses to the defendant's behaviour. An appeal was rejected.
- The "thin skull" test.
The defendant must take his victim as he finds him i.e if D hits a victim over the head with the kind of blow which would not usually kill, but the victim has an unusually thin skull which makes the blow fatal, the defendant will be liable.
R v Blaue 1975
The victim of a stabbing was a Jehovah's witness. As a result of her refusal to accept a blood transfusion, the victim died of her wounds, the Court of Appeal rejected D's argument that refusal of the transfusion broke the chain of causation, on the ground that the accused had to take the victim as he found her.
Not only must the prosecution show that the accused brought about the actus reus of the crime, but also prove the means (guilty mind) was present. The mens rea required varies from crime to crime. For example the only difference between s.18 and s.20 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 is the level of mens rea.
Mens rea should not be confused with having a bad motive
Mens rea is the mental element which canbe intention, recklessness or negligence.
R v Gray 1965
G killed his 11 year old son. The son was suffering form cancer and couldn't even stand the weight of the sheets on him. G was charged with murder, successfully pleaded diminished responsibility and therefore was convicted of manslaughter. His motive may have been good but actus reus and mens rea were established.
This is the highest level of mens rea. Intention can be direct, where it is the defendant's aim, purpose or objective to achieve the unlawful result. For example if someone is attacked and when they are on the ground they are kicked in the head many times. It could be argued that the aim or purpose of the attacker was to cause GBH.
Problems may be caused when the defendant denies that the outcome was his or her aim or purpose. This would be an indirect or oblique intention situation.
This test as confirmed by R v Woollin, allows the jury to infer intention if:
1) The consequence is a virtually certain result of the act
2) and the defendant knows that it is a virtually certain consequence.
Some crimes require the lower level of mens rea of recklessness. This occurs where the defendant knows there is a risk of the criminal consequence is willing to take it and takes i deliberately. Recklessness is 'cunningham' recklessness. This means the prosecution must prove that the defendant appreciated there was a risk and then when ahead and took that risk. This means the prosecution must prove that the defendant appreciated there was a risk and then went ahead and took that risk.
If A shoots at B, intending to kill B, but happens to miss, and shoots and kills C instead, A will be liable for the murder of C. The malice is transferred from B to C.
R v Latimer 1886
D aimed a blow at someone with his belt. The belt recoiled off that person and hit the victim, who was severely injured. Held: D was liable for maliciously wounding the victim.
R v Mitchell 1983
D was involved in an argument in a queue. He pushed an elderly man, causing him to fall accidently on an elderly woman, who subsequently died in hospital from her injuries. He appealed against his conviction on the basis that his unlawful act was not aimed at the victim. The court said that although there was no direct contact with the victim, it was his act that caused her death and the mens rea was transferred to victim.
COINCDENCE OF ACTUS REUS AND MENS REA
The actus reus and mens rea together form a complete offence. If one is formed without the other there can be no conviction (unless it is a strict liability offence). The two elements must occur at the same time or very near to each other in time. In some circumstances the actus reus may be a continuous act, and if the mens rea is formed at some time during the occurrence of the actus reus that will still amount to an offence. e.g. If A takes a book, intending to return it but then decides to keep it, this may still amount to Theft. (Fagan v Metropolitan Police Commissioner 1969)
R v Church 1966
D had gone to his van with a woman for sexual purposes. She mocked his impotence and he had attacked her, knocking her out. D panicked and thinking he had killed her, threw her in a river where she drowned. He argued that all he had done wrong was to dispose of or conceal a dead body and that the mens rea for the attack on a woman ended when he thought that she was dead. The court decided that the mens rea continued even after he thought she was seas, so as to include her death from drowning
STRICT LIABILITY IN CRIMINAL LAW
Crimes of Strict Liability are an important exception to the general rule that all crimes require proof of an actus reus and a mens rea. Where crimes of Strict Liability occur, the accused may be convicted without proof of mens rea. The accused may be convicted although his conduct was neither intentional, reckless, nor negligent and he will be liavled to punishment in the absence of any fault on his part. He is said to be under Strict Laibility - of which there are many critics and such crimes are almost all statutory offences. One of the earliest examples of a case of Strict Liability was:
R v Prince1897
The change was one of taing a girl under 16 out of the possession of her father contrary to S.55 of the offences against the person act 1861 (re enacted by S.20 Sexual Offences Act 1956). Prince knew that the girl was in the custody of her father but he had reasonable grounds to believe she was 18. He was convictred of the offence as mens rea was not required.
Prince has now been effectively overruled by:
B v DPP 2000
A 15 year old boy had sat next to a 13 year old girl and asked her to give him a 'shiner'. The trial judge observed that "this is the language of today's gilded youth, apparently means, not a black eye, but an act of oral sex." The boy repeated his request several times and each time the girl would refuse. The boy was charged with committing an act of gross indecency on a child under the age of 14. Applying the case of Prince, this was treated as a strict liability offence. The case then went on to The House of Lords which overruled the Court of Appeal. They stated that Mens rea was required for the offence and therefore the defendant could plead mistake as a defence, as he truly believed the girl was over 14.
Lord Nicholls pointed out that the court must start from the established common law presumption that mens rea was an essentail ingredient unless Parliemtn had indicated a contary intention. He also went on to approve of the following 2 cases:
Sweet v Parsley 1970
The House of Lords establisehed that the offence of being involved in the management of premises which were used for the smoking of cannabis was not an offence of strict liability under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1965. Miss Sweet, a teacher, let out her cottage to students, and only visited rarely to collect post and see that things were in order. She kept a seperate room locked for her use when she visited the cottage. She knew nothing of the drug taking and was acquitted when it was decided that an element of mens rea was needed for there to be a conviction for this crime.
Gammon (Hong Kong) Lt v A-G of Hong King 1984
The defendants were the contractors, managers and site agents for building works on a sight in Hong Kong. Part of a building collapsed and the defendants were charged with the breech of the building regulations. On appreal, the Privy Council held that the relevant regulations created offences of strict liability and the appellants were guilty.
Strict liability test
Lord scarman laid down the following criteria which court should use to decide whether it should impose strict liability:
1) There is a presumption of law that mens rea is required before a person can be held guilty of a criminal offence.
2) The presumption that mens rea is required is especially strong where the offences are 'truly criminal' in character. As a general rule the greater the penalty the less likely the court is to treat it as a crime of strict liability .3. The presuption can only be rebutted if this is clearly the intention of the statute. 4. The only situation in which the presumption can be displaced is where the statue is concerned with an area of social policy e.g. public
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE...
EMS Administrative Essentials | EMSKnowledgeCheck Guide
Criminal Law Cases (Elements of Crime, Unlawful killing). Chapters 2-7
Criminal Law - Homicide
THIS SET IS OFTEN IN FOLDERS WITH...
The Actus Reus of Theft
LLB London: Criminal Law chapters 2-5