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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Law Coursework: Mens Rea Actus Reus

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Part 1


Using Actual situations, describe the two elements of actus reus and mens rea to criminal law.


I chose a few cases of criminal law, which have clear Mens Rea and Actus Reus. Actus Reus means the guilty act or guilty omission. An act is doing something you shouldn’t and an omission is not doing something you should have. The Mens Rea is the guilty thought or mind. This is either having the intention to do something like theft and murder, or you can have the mind to be reckless which is thinking of taking an unjustifiable risk. Both the guilty mind and guilty thought must be proved to be found guilty.





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The first case I chose is R vs. Haliday (1886-10). The facts are that Mr Haliday, who had been known for domestic violence, came home very drunk one night and told his wife and daughter to go to bed, and then he called out to see if they had. On finding that they had not gone to bed he staggered to the bedroom shouting threats to his wife. Mrs Haliday ran to the bedroom window to climb out but was held by her daughter on the window sill. Mr Haliday entered the bedroom and shouted to the daughter “let the bugger go.” Whereupon the daughter did so out of fright, so Mrs Haliday fell from the window and broke her leg.


Mr Haliday was convicted of Grievous Bodily Harm to his wife, here is why. If a person creates in another persons mind an immediate sense of danger, which causes the person to try and escape, then if injury results from the attempted escape, the person who created such a state of mind is liable for the resulting injuries. It is possible to cause serious bodily harm with no physical contact, just by inducing a fear which results in self inflicting harm


The Actus Reus of this first case is the shouting of “let the bugger go” and putting fear into the child’s mind, so much so that she let her mother go. Also the abuse thrown at the mother causing her to try and escape is enough to prove the Actus Reus


The Mens Rea does not mean that the accused has to know that what he was doing was wrong and against the law. It means that the defendant must have the level of intention required for the particular offence with which he is charged. There are different levels of intention depending on the charge. The Mens Rea for this case is the intention to scare the child and wife by shouting abuse.


nd case R vs. Morris


The facts for this case are that Morris took goods from the shelves of a supermarket and replaced the price labels attached to the goods with other labels showing a lesser price. At the checkout Morris was asked for and paid, the lesser price. After leaving the supermarket Morris was arrested and charged with theft, having dishonestly appropriated property belonging to another.


The Actus Reus was when Morris changed the label, which is the point when it became illegal. It does not matter that he has not left the shop. He had appropriated it thus the shopper was allowed to be arrested before he had left thee shop.


For the mens rea of theft two elements must be proved


• Dishonesty


• Intention to permanently deprive


He did both of these because he intended to dishonestly pay a fake price and deprive the seller of some money.


Dishonesty is difficult to define, but there are three types of theft that are not dishonest. If he believes that he has the right to permanently deprive the other person of the property, if he believes that the other person would give consent if he knew the circumstances or if he believes that he cannot discover who the owner is by taking reasonable steps. None of these are relevant to this case.


Intention to permanently deprive is not as difficult to define, Borrowing is not thought to be permanently depriving, see R vs. Lloyd (185)


Part


Comment on the importance of these two elements to murder and manslaughter


To know the importance of these two elements in murder and manslaughter we must know what the Actus Reus and Mens Rea is in these two cases


Actus Reus in Murder and manslaughter


The important elements are the same in both manslaughter and murder


• The killing must be illegal example= not in self-defence or execution.


• Causation must be established needs to be the defendants actions that did it


• Needs to be a human being when attacked Must have been born


• The victim must die Must die within three years of the attack


• Under the Queens peace Killing enemy in time of war is not murder


The actus for both manslaughter and murder are very important; if there was no actus Reus for these cases then no-one would be convicted for doing them. For example a soldier could be convicted of killing an enemy in a time of war or self-defence could be classed as murder.


There are conditions that the actus Reus and the Mens rea of some murder cases can bring it down to voluntary manslaughter. For example when there is diminished responsibility or a suicide pact. Diminished responsibility is when there is an “abnormality of the mind” and the defendant cannot be held responsible for his or her actions. A suicide pact is where two people agree to people agree to kill each other, but in the case that one survives then voluntary manslaughter is the conviction


The full ancient saying of Mens Rea and Actus Reus is actually “Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea”


The Mens Rea for murder and manslaughter are different


The Mens Rea of murder is malice aforethought either expressed or implied. Express malice means that either of two intentions is sufficient, while implied malice is the intention to do grievous bodily harm.


The Mens Rea of manslaughter, depending upon whether it is voluntary or involuntary is either, intention or gross negligence and recklessness.


Here are the differences between involuntary and voluntary manslaughter and their definitions


Voluntary. when all elements of murder are present but the crime is reduced to manslaughter because of a successful defence such as diminished responsibility or provocation.


Involuntary manslaughter. It comprises of the actus reus of murder yet there is no mens rea i.e. There is no intention to kill or do grievous bodily harm.


The piece I have underlined is the key sentence that shows the difference between the Mens Rea of murder and the Mens Rea of manslaughter.


Thus, I conclude that the Mens rea is more important than the actus Reus in murder, but not in manslaughter because in manslaughter cases there is no intent or there was a loss of self R vs. Ahluwalia (1). In murder cases it is more important because if they have no guilty mind they are often not convicted of murder. Whereas if they had a guilty mind but no Actus Reus, they can be convicted of intent to murde





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