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LL1014 CRIMINAL LAW I - Essay Example

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Law tells us what is right, while ethics is not so categorical and definite in its approach. The opinion was also supported by Maitland in connection to the British law(Pollock and Maitland, History of English law, vol.2). Miller defines crime " to be the commission or the omission of an act which the law forbids or commands under pain of a punishment to be imposed by the state by a proceeding in its own name"( Miller, Criminal Law, p.15 ). The basis of criminal law is that there are certain standards of behaviour of moral principles which society requires to be observed (Devlin P. 1965, The Enforcement of morals, p.6-7). Law prescribes consequences for its breach. The function of criminal law as spotlighted by the Wolfenden Committee Report (1958), is to preserve public order and decency (Berg C. 1959, Fear,Punishment,Anxiety and The Wolfenden Report). We call such consequences liabilities. Liability is the bond of necessity that exist between the wrong doer and the remedy of the wrong. Having gone through the definition of crime and criminal liability, it would be profitable to have a precise idea of the essential conditions which give rise to criminal liability. The general conditions of criminal liability are indicated with sufficient accuracy in the maxim "actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea", that is the act alone does not amount to guilt, it must be accompanied by a guilty mind. From this maxim follows another proposition: "actus me invito factus non est mens actus" which means "an act done by a person against his will is not his act at all".
Actus reus:
" Actus reus" is such result of human conduct as the law seeks to prevent. The act done or omitted must be an act forbidden or commanded by some law. Russel calls "actus reus" as the physical result of human conduct ( Russel, Crime,vol.1,p.20). Actus reus includes negative as well as positive elements. Actus reus by omission is well illustrated in an English case of Gibbins V. Proctor (1918,13 Cr Appeal Rep.134 ).
Mens rea :
It is defined as " the mental element necessary to constitute criminal liability". For the completion of any crime mens rea is essential and in making a person criminally liable an injury into his mental attitude is made. It is the very corner stone of criminal jurisprudence. Mens rea can be said an evil intention or knowledge of the wrongfulness of the act. The basic principle of mens rea is that accused must have been aware of all those elements in his act which make it the crime with which he is charged (J. C Smith 1960, The guilty mind in the criminal law, 76 L.Q.R. 1.). According to Austin "the intention is the aim of the act, of which the motive is the spring". In the case of R. V. Prince (1875, L.R 2 C.C.R. 154) and Queen V. Tolson (1889, 23 Q.B.D. 168), two landmark judgement was given on the subject. The conception of mens rea was introduced into the statutory offences.
Actus reus and Mens rea of all the relevant offences :
1. Alan was a soldier and was home on the weekend. He possessed several guns and over a heated argument with his father, he loaded his gun to show off his shooting skills and in haste shot Brian. Both men were drunk at that time. Every conscious act which we do is preceded by a certain state of mind. No physical act is possible without bodily motions. And every bodily motion which ...Show more


Thousand of years before Aristotle described man as a social animal. The view that man is a social animal was not challenged until the sixteenth century when hobbes propounded the thesis that man is essentially selfish, anything but social . No view of man in society would be correct and comprehensive without correlating both the social and the selfish aspects of human life…
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LL1014 CRIMINAL LAW I essay example
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