EXPLAIN THE ELEMENTS OF actus reus and mens rea IN THE LAW OF HOMICIDE?
Actus Reus is a term used in criminal law and is Latin for “guilty act”. Literally the Latin phrase means bad act. The actus reus is the act which, in combination with a certain mental state, such as intent or recklessness, constitutes a crimes. For example, the crime of theft (Theft Act 1968) requires appropriation of property taking something belonging to another (actus reus). Coupled with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the object. This is the (mens rea) which means guilty act in Latin.
The phrase “actus reus” denotes one of the elements the must be proven by the prosecution before anyone can be liable for criminal punishment. A murder statue for example, typically prohibits the “killing of a human being”. So without the “actus reus” there can be no criminal liability.
The R v Lewis 1971 case concerned the victim who broke her legs by jumping of the windows when her husband threatened to hurt her if she did not open the door. So she jumped of the 3rd floor window to escape from him because she knew that if she opens the door she was going to get beaten as usual. So when they took this to court the man was found guilty of grievous bodily harm under S.18 of the Offence Against the Person Act 1861.
Mens rea is the Latin term for “guilty mind” and it is usually one of the important constituent of a crime. The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase; actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, this phrase means that “the act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty”.
Mens rea is very important because without it the crime could not be considered to be an accident. One of the big constituent in the criminal liability, that the accused should have a mental state commensurate with committing the offence. This state is known as mens rea, which can be also known as “guilty mind” or “blameworthy mind”. A mostly ever criminal offence requires a demonstration mens rea.
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The Theft Act (1968) is that if someone is dishonestly, appropriate, property, belonging to another and the intention to permanently deprive. The theft and steal shall be construed accordingly. The actus reus is property, appropriation and the mens rea is dishonesty and intention to permanently deprive.
The case R v Nedrick (1986) was about a man who poured petrol through the letterbox of a woman who he had grudged against. He lighted the letterbox and in the house there was the woman and a child. The child died when the letterbox was set on fire and he was taken to court. Nedrick denied for murder because as he said he only wanted to scare the woman so he did not have the mens rea for murder. But at last he was found guilty because the consequences of his act were virtually certain to cause harm.
The R v backhouse (1984) is the case about a husband murdering Colyn Bedale-Taylor 63 years old neighbour when he was attempting to kill his wife. In this case the actus reus was that it was a unlawful killing of a human and no defence were applicable because he killed his neighbour and caused grievously bodily harm to his wife. The mens rea in this case was that the husband had intention to kill or cause grievously bodily harm to some one, because he planted a bomb in his car prior to her driving it. The bomb consisted of two sections of metal pipe, threaded with a detonator. The powder of 12 shotgun shells had been used as the explosive and it had been packed with about 4,000 lead pellets. It had been aimed upward through the driving seat. He knew that after blowing that up it would have hurt anyone near it and killed his wife, so that was the intention to kill someone.
The husband was found guilty of murdering his neighbour and attempting murder to his wife. He was given two life sentence for murder and attempted murder. The actus reus and mens rea was fulfilled because the husband was charged with murder which was the unlawful killing of a human and it was actus reus. He was also considered to have mens rea because when he planted the bomb he had the intention to kill or cause GBH so that was the mens rea.
Possible defences for murder
There are only three possible defences for murder and they are Provocation, Diminished Responsibility and Suicide Pact.
Provocation is an act that causes a response. Conduct by which one induces another to do a particular deed; the act of inducing rage, anger, or resentment in another person that may cause that person to engage in an illegal act. Provocation may be alleged as a defence to certain crimes in order to lessen the severity of the penalty normally imposed. For example, provocation that would cause a reasonable person to act in a — a state of mind where one acts without reflection — may result in a reduction of a charge of to a charge of voluntary manslaughter. One of the cases where these defences have been used is R v Ahluwalia 1992.
Diminished Responsibility is a potential by excuse by which argue that although they broke the , they should not be held for doing so, as their mental functions were "diminished" or impaired. These defences have been used on this case R v Hobson 1988
Suicide Pact describes the of two or more individuals in an agreed-upon plan. The plan may be to die together, or separately and closely timed. Suicide pacts are important concepts in the study of suicide, and have occurred throughout , as well as in . Suicide pacts are generally distinct from . The latter refers to incidents in which a larger number of people kill themselves together for the same ideological reason, often within a religious, political, military or paramilitary context. Suicide pacts, on the other hand, usually involve small groups of people (such as married or romantic partners, family members, or friends) whose motivations are intensely personal and individual.
If any of this defences are applied on the case the charges can be reduce to voluntary manslaughter, where as murder but a defence of diminished responsibility, provocation or suicide pact applies. They could also be given a lesser sentence than live can be given.
Comment on the importance of these two elements (actus reus and mens rea) in relation to murder and manslaughter.
People should be punished for taking a life of someone else no matter what the reasons are because taking a life of another person is not a normal or usual thing to do and people does not normally kill people so they do it for something like money like R V Backhouse the man tried to kill his wife for the money.
I think that it is not ever right to take a life of another person to save your self because we are all the same and no one is special so taking a life of another human should not be acceptable and there is case like this where a 18 year old kid called Howe, along with 3 other men murdered a 17 year old boy by kicking, punching and strangling him even when the boy was crying and begging for mercy, Howe continued to attack him. Howe claimed duress as he was scared that the other men would kill him. He was found guilty because judge told him that why is his life important than another persons life.
There should be a defence for murder in order to reduce the sentence because if there was no defence everyone would be charged with murder, when they did not have mens rea as well. So there should be a defence because some people kill people to save themselves like in the R V Alhuwalia (1989) appealed at (1992) the case was about the women who was being beaten up for a long time and no one did anything to help her so she was provoked to kill him one day because she was being tortured regularly, the wife killed his husband the wife was found guilty but her sentence was reduced because she used the defence provocation. I think that the self defence should also apply as a defence in murder because some times you are in a situation, where your are threatened for your life and the only way out of getting it is by killing them. So this why I think that there should defences for murder.
If the defendant has been convicted for murder the sentence that they would get must be proper life and not just 20 years because if the person has taken someone life for nothing why should the defendant enjoy or live his life but still they should not be given a death sentence because they might feel sorry later and would like to help the dead person family or do something else to make them feel good because everyone have feeling and they would know how it would feel like to lose someone that you loved or cared about.
In my point of view I think that the corporate manslaughter is fair because if your company has not taught you the basic need to do your job and not have supplied with the right equipment. Then you have an accident or if you get hurt, the company should get in trouble or be sued. To verify this there is a case about a man called Darren Hoffe an employee with IC roofing, the employee died after falling through a skylight because he had no safety harness or equipment supplied from the job and he also had no safety training in working at heights. The company director named Mr. Colin Cooper was charged with manslaughter which was under Section 2(1) of healthy and safety act 1974 which states that “ it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees”. Mr. Cooper was trialled for murder but jury found him guilty of corporate manslaughter and was jailed for 12 months. The jury told him that every person has a duty of care.
By summing up by what I have written in this essay I think that the actus reus and the mens rea are very important elements in manslaughter and murder, as you know that they decide what they can be charged with if the defendant is found guilty. And without these two elements you would not be able to tell which crime was a accident. Without the mens rea elements of homicide, accidents which result in fatalities could be considered to be as serious as premeditated murder cases. An interesting development is the advert of corporate manslaughter which is aimed at encouraging and hopefully punishing those who do not exercise the correct level of duty of care is order to avoid fatalities.