Actus Reus

Topics: Law, Criminal law, Mens rea Pages: 5 (1756 words) Published: October 26, 2009

The cardinal doctrine of English Law is that an Act does not of itself constitute guilt unless the mind is guilty – Actus non facit recum nisi mens sit rea. The maxim draws attention to the 2 essential elements of a crime which are: ( 1) The physical element or the _actus _reus – the so – called “condition of illegality “ (2) The mental element or the mens rea – the “condition of the mind “ The general rule is that for all crimes save for certain statutory exceptions ex. strict liability offences the prosecution must prove both. R v Deller (1952) Generally the two must coincide that is there should be coincidence of actus reus and mens rea. Haughton v Smith (1975) AC 467 pages 491- 2 “An act does not make a man guilty unless his mind be also guilty.” The actus reus includes all the elements of the definition of a crime except the accused’s mental element. It is too narrow to define the concept only in terms of “acts” therefore it includes” Acts

A criminal state of affairs
An exception to this rule is where the act was done in a case of self –induced intoxication and the crime is a case of basic intent as for crimes of specific intent it is still a defence. R v Lipman (1970) 1 QB 152 approved in DPP v Majewski (1977) AC 443 AUTOMATISM

The defence can be said to involve 3 elements:
Total destruction of voluntary control
Caused by an external factor
Defendant was not responsible for his condition
Total destruction of voluntary control
It is necessary to demonstrate a total destruction of voluntary control. It is not sufficient to show that the Accused had only impaired control over his Acts. See AG reference (No 2 of 1992)Nor is it enough to simply show that the Accused did not control his actions or did not know what he was doing if he could have controlled his actions. What must be shown is that the Defendant lost control of his actions. The Condition must be caused by an external factor This is important as the essential distinction between automatism and insanity depends upon whether the state of mind is caused by an internal or external factor. If is caused by an external factor [for example being hit in the head by a falling object or where a diabetic involuntarily acts as a result of hypoglycemia caused by an excess of insulin injected as part of medical treatment- See R v Quick –[1973] 1 QB 910- then the defend is in automaton; if an internal factor [ ex/ an epileptic fit See R v Sullivan - (1984) AC 156 ] then the defence will be insanity. The Defendant is not Responsible for his state of mind The Appeal Court in R v Quick said that if the hypoglycemia were self-induced through negligence, it would not have been a defence- Lawton LJ 'a self-induced incapacity will not excuse ... nor will one which could have been reasonably foreseen_ as a result of either doing or omitting to do something, for example, taking alcohol against medical advice after using certain prescribed drugs or failing to have regular meals while taking insulin_ An exception to this rule is where the act was done in a case of self –induced intoxication and the crime is a case of basic intent – common assault - as for crimes of specific intent – murder- it is still a defence. Held: He was acquitted of murder because the jury was not sure that he had the necessary intention being intoxicated. Instead he was found guilty of manslaughter. REFLEX ACTIONS

Sometimes people can respond to something with a spontaneous reflex action over which they have no control. Although slightly different, this is sometimes classed as a form of automatism. The classic example is that given in Hill v Baxter [1958] 1 All ER 193, of someone being stung by a swarm of bees while driving, and losing control of the car. PHYSICAL FORCE

The conduct may be...
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