Law - Unit 3 - Mock Exam Question

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Criminal Law

The actus reus of a crime is all the elements of the offence committed other than the state of mind of the defendant. If the accused is to be found guilty of a crime, his or her behaviour in committing the actus reus must have been voluntary. In R v Burgess (1991) the defendant was sleep walking when he attacked someone, he was acquitted because it was said his conduct was involuntary. Crimes can be divided into three types depending on the nature of their actus reus. Firstly, a conduct crime is where the defendant will be liable simply by his conduct, the result of the defendant’s actions is irrelevant. An example is perjury, where someone makes a false statement whilst under oath, whether the statement affects the outcome of the trial is not important, the offence has still been committed.

   Secondly, a state of affairs crime is where the defendant will be liable for an offence simply by being in a particular place when the state of affairs has been declared wrong. An example is where someone is in a place they are not allowed to be in. In R v Larsonneur (1933) the defendants permission to be in the United Kingdom had expired. She went to Ireland but was sent back to the United Kingdom when it was discovered that she did not have permission to be in Ireland. She was arrested and charged simply because she was in a country she wasn’t allowed to be. It did not matter that she did not wish to return to England but the Irish authorities sent her.    

  Thirdly, a result crime is where the defendant must have caused a certain result to be liable. An example is murder, where the actual death of the victim has to occur.

   Result crimes raise the issue of causation: the result must be proved to have been caused by the defendant’s act. Difficulties may arise when there is more than one cause of the result. This could be the act or omission of a third party which occurs after the defendants act, and before the result constituting the offence, a special characteristic of the victim that means the harm they suffered is more severe than the average person, the victims own act, medical treatment or a natural but unpredictable event. For the defendant to be liable factual and legal causation must be proved.

   Factual causation is established by two things. Firstly, that but for the conduct of the defendant, the result of the offence would not have occurred as and when it did. Thus, a defendant will not be liable for a death if the victim would have died at the same time regardless of the defendant’s act or omission. This is demonstrated in the case of R v White (1910) where the defendant gave his mother poison, but before it had a chance to take effect, she died of a heart attack which was not caused by the poison. So he was not liable for her death.

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   Secondly the original injury arising from the defendants conduct must be more than a minimal cause of the result constituting the offence. This is known as the de minimis rule. So pricking the thumb of a woman bleeding to death would hasten her death, but not enough to be the real cause of it.

   Legal causation can be proved by one of the following three ways or by a combination of them. Firstly, the original injury was still an operative and significant cause at the time the result of the offence occurred. In R v Malcherek and ...

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