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Critically evaluate the law on intention as part of mens rea

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Introduction

Critically evaluate the law on intention as part of mens rea By Rebecca Haworth The mens rea is the Latin for guilty mind and refers to the state of mind of the accused at the time the actus reus is committed. Intention is a subjective concept; what the actual defendant was thinking at the time of the offence as opposed to objective which is what a reasonable person would have thought in the same position. Intention is the highest form of mens rea and an example of this is in the case of theft. The mens rea of theft is intention to deprive someone of property permanently. Without the intent to take the property the defendant is not guilty of the crime. This is shown in the case of Madeley where he was able to show that he was suffering from stress and merely forgot to pay for the goods and he was found not guilty. ...read more.

Middle

of jury 'shall not be bound by law to infer that a defendant intended or foresaw result of his or her actions by reason only of its being a natural and probable consequence of those actions'. It also requires the jury to refer to 'all the evidence, drawing such inferences from the evidence as appear proper in the circumstances'. This wording makes the test subjective, whether the defendant saw it as probable and this has been the subject of several cases over the last 20 years. The Moloney case (1985) is one of the leading cases on this subject. This case brought the 2 stage test which asked whether the death or serious injury was a natural consequence of the defendants act and whether the defendant foresaw the consequence as being the natural consequence of his or her act. The problem with these tests is that that they assume that the consequence is virtually certain if it is a natural consequence. ...read more.

Conclusion

The court provided a standard direction for the jury as to intent in a murder trial in all cases of oblique intent. This direction was confirmed and the Jury must now consider to questions which are; was death or serious bodily harm a virtual certainty? Did the defendant appreciate that such was the case? If the answer to both of these questions is 'yes' then the jury may find intent. Problems could occur with the decision in Woolin as Lord Steyne seemed to regard foresight of consequences as the same as intention and not merely evidence of it as was stated in Moloney. This contradiction adds a great deal of confusion on this point. In conclusion when looking at the law of intent as a part of mens rea it is important to distinguish between oblique intent and direct intent. Whilst direct intent is fairly straight forward, however this is not the case in oblique intent. When looking at oblique intent, as was made clear in Woolin, the defendant's knowledge is an important factor. ...read more.

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