Outline the elements of crime;
Understand the different degrees of intent;
Explain what is a strict liability offence;
Outline the burden and standard of proof in criminal law;
Be able to analyse case law and cite cases in a persuasive
manner in an answer.
What is a crime and how is it different from a tort?
Definition of crime: no universally accepted definition!
Lord Tucker 1957: “a crime is an unlawful act...which is an
offence against the public and renders the person guilty
of the act...liable to legal punishment”
Crime-Public Law; whereas tort falls under the Private (Civil)
Remedies: Criminal Law-punishment
The elements of crime:
“Actus Reus”- the guilty act: it is the physical element
of the offence
“Mens Rea”- the guilty mind or intention: it is the
mental element of the offence
Each offence has its own actus reus and mens rea-this
will be examined in more detail when we look at the
different offences that will be studied on the course
Actus reus is usually the act of committing an offence.
The physical act.
However, the actus reus of an offence can also be an
An omission is the failure to do something. For
example, the failure to stop at the traffic light or the
failure to wear a seat belt.
CHAIN OF CAUSATION
Chain of causation- there must be a casual link
between the D’s act/omission and the consequences
R v Lewis (1970)
R v Smith (1959)
R v Jordan (1956)
Different levels of mens rea are required for different crimes: for example, the
mens rea of murder differs from the mens rea of manslaughter
Specific Intention: this is whereby the defendant has the intention/desire to
commit the crime and achieve the desired consequences of his actions. For
example, to cause the victim injury or to kill the victim.
R v Mohan (1976)- Court of Appeal held that motive or reason of the defendant
for doing the act is not important
Recklessness: here the defendant does not intend to commit the crime but acts in
such a reckless way that any reasonable person would realise that a crime would
be committed as a result. The defendant takes an unjustifiable risk, aware of the
danger that might result.
Strict Liability Offences
No requirement to establish mens rea- the actus reus is enough to hold
the D guilty
E.g., drink driving, failure to stop at the traffic light, selling alcohol to
anyone under the age of 18 years old etc.
Winzar v Chief Constable for Kent (1983)
Harrow Borough Council v Shah (1999)
What is the standard and burden of proof in criminal
Defendant is innocent until proven guilty
Burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove beyond
reasonable ground that the defendant is guilty of the offence
Burden of proof: who has to prove the defendant guilty of the offence
Standard of proof: the test/what needs to be proven
“prove beyond reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty of the
offence (Woolmington v DPP (1935))
“Beyond reasonable doubt”
There must not be any degree of “reasonable doubt”
What amounts to “reasonable doubt” ?
Almost saying that the judge/jury has to be absolutely certain
that the defendant is guilty/not guilty of the offence
The burden of proof will rest on the defence where for
example, the defendant, who has been charged with
murder ,raises the defence of diminished responsibility
In this situation the defence will have to prove not on the
test of “beyond reasonable doubt” but a test based on a
“balance of possibilities”, that the defendant has a
Preps. For Seminar 5
Jacqueline Martin, “GCSE Law”, 5th
edition, Chapter 21- Criminal
List of Cases (on Hand Out)