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'Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea '- 'An act does not make a person legally liable unless the mind is legally blameworthy'.

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  • Essay length: 4307 words
  • Submitted: 22/12/2003
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'Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea '

- 'An act does not make a person legally liable unless the mind is legally blameworthy'.

'Mens rea' or 'blameworthy mind' as one of the essential components of criminal liability is very difficult to define precisely inasmuch as 'blameworthy ' can have a different meaning dependant on the offence. The courts have developed various approaches to clarify the meaning and definition of these required elements in the common law as well as the defences that mitigate or negative mens rea to varying degrees. An act can be completed but no liability falls on the defendant if he can disprove mens rea. Liability may be mitigated partially or completely either by a recognised defence or reasonable mistake. However, there are circumstances where mens rea is found or not required and the defendant is blameless, but liability still conferred.

The maxim 'actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea' forms the basis for defining the 2 elements that must be proved before a person can be convicted of a crime, the actus reus or 'guilty act' and mens rea or 'blameworthy mind'. In B (a minor) v D.P.P. [2000]

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