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Consider the meaning and importance of fault-based liability in English law

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Consider the meaning and importance of fault-based liability in English law Fault is regarded as blame, or responsibility for doing something wrong. The concept of fault is integral to the English legal system when it comes to deciding guilt of liability. In fact, in many areas of law if fault could not be assigned, the system would fall apart as liability can only be found if fault is established first. Fault is particularly important in cases which require mens rea. In these cases it will have to be proven that a certain state of mind was present in the defendant. In criminal law the requirement that mens rea or a guilty mind be established amounts to saying that criminal liability is imposed on blameworthy activity. This close connection between fault and mens rea results in punishment being based on the degree of moral blameworthiness that the defendant is believed to have possessed. The fact that this degree of blameworthiness not only determines whether the defendant will simply be found guilty or not guilty, but is concerned with the punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation of individuals whose conduct is considered by the law to be not only wrongs against other individuals, but also against society as a whole, suggests fault is clearly an essential element. ...read more.


Indeed, sometimes fault may be left out altogether from the equation, in crimes of strict liability. Fault can be further understood when looking at negligence. Negligence is carelessness, the defendant wasn't thinking like the ordinary reasonable person would have done, it's a lack of thought as oppose to actual thought, not taking enough care that the ordinary reasonable person would have done. In the case of Gibbons and Proctor, Proctor actually wanted the girl dead and so she was convicted of murder as she intended to kill, however Gibbons was merely negligent he wasn't taking enough care of the child thus he wasn't convicted of murder he was only convicted of GNM. It must be questioned as to the importance of fault here, negligence is a very low level of fault, it's not thinking of something you should have thought yet it can lead to a conviction of manslaughter, a homicide conviction. It would seem therefore that fault doesn't seem to be that important here because you can still convict someone of manslaughter however if you are convicted of manslaughter the judge in that case has complete discretion over sentencing. However still should fault not be more important in this instance, should there not be a higher level of fault than mere negligence. ...read more.


Similarly controversial is the use of fault in State of Affairs crimes, where the defendant may have involuntarily committed an offence, yet are still guilty. One such example is Winzar v Chief Constable of Kent in which a drunken man was taken from a hospital onto a road outside by the police, and then arrested for being drunk on the highway, even though he would never have made it onto the highway without the "help" of the police. As with Strict Liability crimes, the ordinary person would not see the defendant as being at fault here, and may view the use of fault in this area of the law as being unfair. The issue of fault is even present in defences, in that aggravating and mitigating factors can be used to lessen the amount of fault which the defendant is thought of having. For example someone on bail who plans an attack on an old lady will be seen as being more at fault than someone committing their first offence and entering an early plea of guilty. The concept of fault therefore is present in many areas of law, both civil and criminal. In many cases, without the need to prove fault, system would not work as it is necessary for one party to be blamed for the criminal offence in order to settle it. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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