Strict Liability for Criminal Offences

Topics: Criminal law, Actus reus, Mens rea Pages: 2 (706 words) Published: March 13, 2011
How does the law justify imposing strict liability for some criminal offences? ‘actus non facit nise men sit rea’ means an act alone cannot constitute guilt without the proof of a guilty mind, for most criminal cases. Strict Liability is the legal responsibility for injury or damages even if the person was not at fault or negligent; this contradicts the above Latin maxim as it places sole responsibility upon a defendant without the proof of ‘mens rea.’ Strict liability is a topic that has both its pros and cons, those of which I will discuss in this essay. In criminal law, strict liability is liability for which ‘mens rea’ (Latin for "guilty mind") does not have to be proven in relation to one or more elements comprising the "actus reus" (Latin for "guilty act") although intention, recklessness or knowledge may be required in relation to other elements of the offence. The law argues that strict liability promotes high standards of care and it protects the public from any dangerous practice, therefore the aim of criminal law is to protect any social damage which means the law has to look at who caused the harm whether its carelessness, accident or as a cause of negligence. It is used either in regulatory offences enforcing social behaviour where little stigma attaches to a person upon conviction, or where society is concerned with the prevention of harm, and wishes to maximise the restriction value of the offence. The liability is said to be strict because defendants will be convicted even if they were genuinely ignorant of one or more factors that made their acts or omissions criminal. The defendants may therefore not be culpable in any real way, i.e. there is not even criminal negligence, the least blameworthy level of "mens rea". For example in the case of Larsonneur (1933) the defendant had gone to Ireland after her permission to be in the UK had expired, however she was then deported from Ireland and thus brought back to the UK against her will and...
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