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Critically assess the current law regarding the Mens Rea of murder

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Introduction

J.Suliman Critically assess the current law regarding the Mens Rea of murder The current law requires a certain level of mens rea in order for a crime to be called murder, which has a mandatory life sentence as a penalty. This is to ensure a just legal system where people are punished in accordance to their moral culpability. In order for an offender to have caused murder, he must have 'specific intent' (the highest level of mens rea) or 'oblique intent' to do so. The criminal must have either intended to cause death or to intend to cause grievous bodily harm (and as a result the victim died). ...read more.

Middle

First, in Moloney 1985 (where the defendant shot and killed his stepfather in a drunken challenge to see who was quicker on the draw) the House of Lords decided that foresight of consequences was only evidence of intention. The Lords also gave guidelines, which referred to the natural consequence of the defendants act, but omitted to mention probability. This was overruled in the next case. Hancock and Shankland 1986 (the defendants dropped two large concrete blocks from a bridge onto a road below in order to scare a fellow worker from going to work in a taxi and breaking the strike, they intended to stop the taxi but did not desire or intend the death of the driver). ...read more.

Conclusion

The jury should be directed that they are not entitled to infer the necessary intention unless they feel sure that the consequence was a virtual certainty as a result as a result of the defendant's actions and that the defendant appreciated that this was the case. Finally, the last case that put an end to all this confusion was Woollin (1998). The defendant threw his three-month-old baby towards the pram, which was against the wall some three feet away. The baby suffered head injuries and died. The Lords approved of the direction in Nedrick, provided the word 'infer' was changed to 'find'. However, the House of Lords disapproved of the use of the two questions in Nedrick. It seems that the courts have finally settles on a test for oblique intention, and therefore, is perceived to have been successful in finally finding a definition for this indirect intention. ...read more.

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