Criminal Law

  1. Vincent, an Afro-Caribbean, was walking home when Kevin, a member of an extreme right-wing group, started shouting racist abuse. Kevin then attacked Vincent and pulled out a knife. Vincent suffered several deep cuts to his face and part of his ear was severed.

  1. Explain the terms actus reus and mens rea. Using those explanations, outline an appropriate offence with which Kevin might be charged. (15 marks)

Actus reus means the guilty act, this is the physical element of a crime, this includes an act, failure to act [an omission].

An omission is when the defendant is under a legal duty to act in a certain way, this may include, a contractual/vocational duty [R v Pittwood], a relationship [R v Stone and Dobinson] or when the defendant creates a situation whereby a duty is imposed [R v Miller].

        The courts will look at two issues when they are determining whether or not the defendant’s actions caused the victims injury or death. Theses two issues are causation in law and causation in fact. Causation in law is when the defendant’s actions are not the only cause for the injury or death but plays a part. The court’s say the defendant makes a significant contribution [R v Smith]. Causation in fact is when the defendant’s action causes the end result, this is judged by the ‘but for’ test, this basically means ‘but for’ the defendant’s actions the victim would not have been injured/killed.

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Mens rea means the guilty mind, this is the mental element of a crime, and these include intention, recklessness and negligence.        

        Intention is the highest level of the mens rea and is split in to two different elements; direct intention and oblique intention. Direct intention is what the defendant desired whereas oblique intention is when the defendant foresees         will almost certainly happen [R v Woolin].

        Recklessness, this is the taking of an unjustifiable risk, it is judged by the Subjective test i.e. the defendant should have realised the risk [R. v Cunningham] this is also known as Cunningham recklessness ...

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