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AS LAW MODEL ANSWERS

Define the actus reus of a crime (7 mins)


The actus reus is the physical and external part of a crime. It means the guilty
act. The actus reus must be a positive and voluntary act as illustrated in the
case of Hill vs Baxter. In this case the judge said that driving whilst fighting off
a swarm of bees would prevent the act from being voluntary, therefore
preventing the actus reus from being satisfied. If the actus reus of a crime is
not satisfied the defendant can never be found guilty.
However there are six situations where a failure to act (omission) will satisfy
the actus reus of a crime. These are exceptions to the rule in Hill v Baxter that
the act committed must be positive. A person will have a duty to act if they
assume the duty voluntarily, as illustrated in Stone v Dobinson, where the
defendants failed to provide adequate care for their aunt when they said they
would look after her.
Pittwood illustrates that a contract can require a person to act, in this case the
defendant failed to shut a gate, causing death, which he was required to
under contract. In Miller the defendant created a dangerous situation and
satisfied the actus reus of a crime as he did not take any steps to extinguish a
fire which he created. In Dytham the policeman held an official position, which
required him to act, therefore he was guilty of misconduct when he failed to
act while someone got kicked to death. Gibbins v Proctor illustrates that
parents have a duty to feed their child due to their relationship. The final
situation where someone can be guilty for a failure to act is an Act of
Parliament is wear an Act of Parliament says someone must act, as illustrated
by the Road Traffic Act 1988 which says people must wear a seatbelt and the
Children and Young Persons Act 1933 which says that parents have a positive
obligation to look after their children.
Explain using cases, the meaning of causation (7 mins)
Causation is the link between the acts of the defendant and the illegal
consequence. Two types of causation must be established for the defendant
to be guilty of a crime; these are factual and legal causation. If there are both,
then causation is established.
In order for factual causation to be established the but for test is used, the
prosecution must prove that but for (if you take away) the defendants act,
the consequence would not have happened. This is illustrated in White and
Pagett. In White there was no factual causation for murder because his act
did not cause his mothers death, because she would have died without his
act. In Pagett, there was factual causation because the victim would not have
died, if he hadnt used her as a human shield.
Legal causation limits who is to blame using a chain of causation, this can
be broken by an intervening act, which means that the defendants act was

not a substantial and operating cause of the consequence (Jordan). The effect
of this is that the defendant will not be guilty. The victims own act, the act of
another and an unforeseeable event can constitute an intervening act to break
the chain, but will not always do so where the defendants conduct was still
the substantial cause. In Dear, the victim committed suicide following the
defendants attack however, the chain was not broken by the victims own act
because the attack was a substantial cause of the suicide.
In Roberts and Williams the victims both jumped from a moving car,
sustaining injuries. In Roberts the chain was not broken as she jumped for her
safety, which was reasonable and foreseeable. However, in Williams the chain
was broken as it was not reasonable or foreseeable to jump to protect
property.
Jordan illustrates that an act of a third party may break the chain, where the
defendant was given drugs he was allergic to however, medical treatment will
rarely break the chain as illustrated in Malcherek v Steel Cheshire and Smith.
In Smith a series of medical mistakes were made, however the chain was not
broken as the defendants act was still a substantial cause of death unlike in
Jordan.
Define the mens rea of a crime (7 marks)
The mens rea is the guilty mind, or the mental element of a crime. There are
two types of mens rea, which are: intention and recklessness. There are two
types of intention, direct and indirect (oblique). Direct intention can be found if
the jury decide that the defendant has done all in their power to bring about
the consequence as held in Mohan. Indirect intent can be found where the
jury decide that the consequences were virtually certain and that the
defendant knew this when committing the act as held in Woollin. An illustration
of this is the case of Matthews and Alleyne where the defendants knew that
the victim could not swim, but threw him into water anyway. This satisfied the
Woollin test for indirect intent.
The test for recklessness comes from the case of Cunningham, in this case
the defendant ripped a gas meter from a wall, it was found that he was not
reckless because he did not foresee the risk of poisoning from his act. The
test for recklessness is did the defendant foresee the risk and go on to take it.
The mens rea can be transferred from one victim to another as illustrated in
Mitchell. In this case the defendant pushed someone who fell into the victim.
His malice was transferred from the person he pushed to the victim.
Explain using cases, the meaning of strict liability (7 marks)
A strict liability offence is one which requires no mens rea, therefore
committing the actus reus is enough for the defendant to be convicted of an
offence.

Most offences are not strict liability, in fact according to Gammon v AG for
Hong Kong unless Parliament says that the offence does not require mens
rea there is a presumption that it does, as illustrated in the case of Sweet v
Parsley. Furthermore strict liability offences should not be truly criminal
offences such as murder, rape or GBH.
Examples of strict liability cases include food safety as recognised in
Smedleys v Breed where a caterpillar was found in a tin of peas, the
manufacturer was found guilty although their was no mens rea. Another
example is broadcasting without a licence, as illustrating in Blake. IN Shah v
Harrow LBC the defendant was guilty of selling lottery tickets to someone
underage, although they had no mens rea and Alphacell v Woodward
illustrates that pollution is a strict liability offence, even where reasonable care
is taken.
Although unfair, the reasons for having strict liability offences are that they
save court time and money and strict liability offences such as speeding
protect the public.
Absolute liability offences are harsher and used to protect the public, for these
no mens rea is required and the actus reus does not need to be committed
voluntarily as illustrated in Winzar where the defendant was charged for being
drunk on a public highway after being taken and left there by the police.