Criminal Law

Topics: Criminal law, Mens rea, Actus reus Pages: 4 (1559 words) Published: May 2, 2013
Question 1(b)
The Latin phrase “actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” implies that an act does not make one guilty unless the mind is also. Thus, the meaning behind mens rea lies within the mental element of the defendant in a crime. H.L.A. Hart states that “what is crucial is that those whom we punish should have had, when they acted, the normal capacities, physical and mental, for doing what the law requires and abstaining form what it forbids, and a fair opportunity to exercise these capacities. Where these capacities and opportunities are absent, … the moral protest is that it is morally wrong to punish because ‘he could not have helped it’ or ‘he could not have done otherwise’ or ‘he had no real choice’.” Intention is an element of mens rea and can be divided into two parts, namely, direct and oblique intention. Direct intention concludes that a defendant directly desires the consequence of their actions. From the case of Calhaem, we can see that the defendant had clearly intended to kill the victim despite his monetary motivation to commit the act. In Byrne, the defendant had an impulse and intention to commit murder despite his sadistic psychopath behaviour. He enjoyed the act of killing another. However, the case of State v Sikora denies any form of desire to kill in the defendant due to his psychodynamic state of mind. This finding is in conflict with the conclusion in Byrne. Francis J. on Sikora is of the opinion that “if the law were to accept a medical doctrine, as established by Dr Galen on the case, the legal doctrine of mens rea would all but disappear from the law and criminal responsibility would vanish”. Conclusively, whatever the mental health of the defendant, an intention is still sufficient mens rea of a crime. Oblique intention is whereby the defendant foresees the consequence of his actions as virtually certain but still acts anyway. The degree of probability that the defendant foresees the consequence of his actions is known as the...
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