Actus Reas and Mens Rea: Case study

September 19, 2017 Medical

The basic regulation of condemnable jurisprudence is that, to be convicted of an offense to the exclusion of rigorous liability offenses, the actus reus and work forces rea [ 1 ] should be proved.

The load is on the prosecution to turn out beyond sensible uncertainties all the elements of an offense with which a suspect is charged [ 2 ] . Murder is committed when a suspect commits the actus reus of homicide, which is the improper violent death of a sensible individual who is in being and under the King’s peace [ 3 ] , with maliciousness aforethought.

Defence instance for Tina:

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The actus reus of slaying in the present instance will be the improper violent death by Tina of Vernon. In order to turn out that, the prosecution will hold to demo beyond sensible uncertainty that Vernon in fact died as a consequence of the fire put by Tina. Hence, the prosecution will hold to demo the causal nexus between the fire put by Tina and the decease of Vernon. If there is no such causal nexus, the actus reus will non be established. InWhite[ 4 ] , the suspect had put K nitrile into a drink with the purpose to slay his female parent. She was found dead shortly afterwards with the glass, three parts filled, beside her. The medical grounds showed that the defendant’s female parent had non died of the toxicant put in her drink but instead of a bosom failure. The suspect was, hence, acquitted of slaying and charged of attempted slaying because there was no actus reus.

In the present instance, the postmortem did non uncover decidedly the cause of the decease and it is suggested that there is a possibility that the decease of Vernon may hold been caused by a bosom onslaught caused by high ingestion of intoxicant. The defense mechanism will necessitate to reason that such possibility is relevant peculiarly as there is circumstantial grounds to that consequence viz. the being of a figure of empty brandy bottles in the kitchen proposing that Vernon has been imbibing to a great extent. The defense mechanism may utilize such statement to do it hard for the prosecution to turn out beyond sensible uncertainty that the fire set by Tina in consequence killed Vernon.

The prosecution will besides necessitate to turn out the necessary work forces rea for slaying which is malice aforethought. The modern expression for work forces rea is an purpose to kill or do dangerous bodily injury [ 5 ] . The grade of the needed purpose has been explained inWoolin[ 6 ] : If the Defendant’s purpose was to kill or do dangerous bodily injury ( GBH ) , so the latter intended to kill or do GBH. If this was non his purpose but he knew that decease or dangerous bodily injury was virtually certain to ensue from his actions, so the jury are entitled but non obliged to happen that he intended to kill or do GBH. On the other manus, if the suspect foresaw a hazard of decease or GBH at a lower degree than practical certainty, so that will non amount to the needed purpose. Bearing this in head, the Defence could reason that Tina merely wanted to scare Vernon and did non hold the needed purpose to kill or do GBH unless the prosecution can demo that Tina knew that her act of seting the fire could kill or do GBH to Vernon to a degree of practical certainty.

Prosecution’s Case:

To convict Tina of slaying for which the sentence is life imprisonment, the prosecution has to turn out beyond sensible uncertainty that Tina has unlawfully and with purpose killed Vernon. Hence, it will necessitate to demo that the fire in fact killed Vernon. It might be hard for the prosecution to turn out beyond sensible uncertainties that the fire set up by Tina in fact killed Vernon as the postmortem could non with certainty identify the cause and clip of decease.

The prosecution may besides see convicting Tina of voluntary manslaughter for which sentencing may run between 3 to 12 old ages of detention if it can turn out maliciousness aforethought and taking into history the extenuating factor of aggravation. The prosecution may convey such a charge against Tina if it takes into history the history that Vernon has been violent to her [ 7 ] .

If the prosecution does non win in set uping slaying, it may seek to convict Tina of Involuntary Manslaughter. It will necessitate to turn out that Tina deliberately performed an improper act which act was unsafe and caused the decease of Vernon. An act will be improper if “all sober and sensible people” would necessarily recognize that the improper act subjected the victim to the hazard of some injury, albeit non serious injury [ 8 ] and the trial is an nonsubjective one so that it is non necessary to turn out that Tina realised that her behavior carried some hazard of injury [ 9 ] . However, the prosecution will still confront the hurdle of turn outing that Vernon died as a consequence of the fire put by Tina.

If the prosecution can turn out beyond sensible uncertainty that the fire killed Vernon, it may win either under slaying or manslaughter provided all the elements of the offenses are proved. Tina will non be able to reason that there are conducive causes responsible for the decease of Vernon peculiarly the fact that the fire engine was late in geting due to the carelessness of the driver. InBenge[ 10 ] , it was held that if the defendant’s carelessness chiefly or well caused the accident, it was irrelevant that it might hold been avoided if other individuals had non been negligent.


In visible radiation of the above and the postmortem studies, it seems more likely that Tina will non be convicted of slaying. It besides seems that she will non be convicted of voluntary or nonvoluntary manslaughter unless the prosecution establishes a causal nexus between the fire and Vernon’s decease. Afterall, Tina maintains that her purpose was non kill but to scare Vernon.


Smith & A ; Hogan ‘Criminal Law’ , 12Thursdayedition ( 2008 )

Clarkson and Keating ‘Criminal Law’ , 6Thursdayedition ( 2007 )

Ashworth A. , ‘Principles of condemnable law’ , 5Thursdayedition ( 2006 )

Peter Murphy, ‘Murphy on Evidence’ , 10Thursdayedition ( 2007 )


Deller ( 1952 ) Cr App R 184

Woolmington V DPP ( 1935 ) AC 462

White ( 1910 ) 2 K.B 124

Moloney ( 1985 ) AC 905

Woolin ( 1999 ) 1 Cr App R 8

Duffy ( 1949 ) 1 All E.R. 932

Church ( 1966 ) 1 QB 59

Lipman ( 1970 ) 1 QB 152

Benge ( 1865 ) 4 F & A ; F 504



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