Actus Reus

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Actus Reus  The physical element of a crime: o An act o An omission (failure to act) o A ‘state of affairs’ Conduct, consequence, circumstances. To complete an offence, mens rea is also needed. Strict liability offences do not require mens rea. A ‘state of affairs’ is an involuntary act: o Larsonneur 1933- D ordered to leave UK; brought back to UK against her will but Irish police. Convicted, despite involuntary act. Actus reus must be proved: o R v Deller 1916- D thought he’d mortgaged car, and so was lying to buyer. Car not mortgaged- mens rea for false pretence but no actus reus. Conduct generally must be voluntary to constitute actus reus. Coincidence of actus reus and mens rea: o Thabo Meli v R 1954- Ds plied V with drink; hit him intending to kill. Pushed V off cliff, where he died from exposure. Privy Council held that entire event was one continuing actus reus. o R v Le Brun 1991- D hit wife intending to injure. Her death actually resulted from D dragging her from the car, where she hit her head on the ground. Manslaughter conviction- two acts part of same sequence despite time gap. o R v Church 1966- D fought V; knocked her unconscious. Assumed she was dead and threw her into river where she drowned. Manslaughter. Omissions Normally, only voluntary acts can constitute actus reus. However, a ‘state of affairs’ can be sufficient for actus reus. Omissions- failing to act. There is only criminal liability for the failure if there was a duty to act; the crime must also be a result crime (e.g. murder). Six different duties. A statutory duty: an act of Parliament can create liability for an omission, e.g. failing to report a road traffic accident. Examples include s.1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, the Domestic Violence, Crime, and Victims Act 2004 and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991: o Greener v DPP 1996- D guilty under Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 for failing to take precautions when restraining a dog that escape and bit a child. Common Law Duties: A contractual duty: a person may be under a contractual obligation to do something: o Pittwood 1902- level crossing keeper didn’t close railway gate; train hit and killed someone. Manslaughter. o Adomako 1994- anaesthetist didn’t see disconnected breathing tube during operation; V suffered brain damage and died. Gross negligence manslaughter. Duty due to a special relationship: common and statute law. Usually parent-child: o Gibbins and Proctor 1918- father and stepmother of 7yr old girl deliberately failed to feed her. Starved to death; convicted of murder. Assumption of care/voluntarily undertaking a duty: duty owed in where one voluntarily undertakes some form of care towards another: o R v Stone and Dobinson 1977- sister of one of the Ds moved in, eventually dying from malnutrition etc. Both Ds convicted of manslaughter; one due to relationship and other as they had fed/bathed V at least once. 1



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o R v Nicholls 1874- child died after moving in with grandmother. o R v Instan 1893- niece failed to care for aunt after moving in during illness. o R v Ruffell 2003- V injected heroin and became ill. D put him outside where he subsequently died. Duty through one’s official position: o Dytham 1979- policeman watched V be kicked to death by men; didn’t interfere and afterwards said he was going off-duty. Convicted of misconduct in a public office. A duty arising from setting a chain of events into motion: occurs when D inadvertently creates dangerous situations without mens rea. If he becomes aware of it and doesn’t summon help, D can be criminally liable. o R v Miller 1983- D slept whilst smoking; awoke to find mattress on fire. Moved to another room and did nothing. Arson conviction. o Santana-Bermudez 2003- D didn’t tell police about needles in pocket before search; police officer injured by needles. S. 47 conviction. o R v Khan (Rungzabe) 1998- appellant sold heroin to 15yr old new...
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