Mens rea is not always required
Some offences are classified as strict liability – the
prosecution only needs to prove actus reus, but not
that there was intent.
This lowers the burden of proof, so the accused
doesn’t have as many rights as in other criminal
cases. Because of this, strict liability usually only
applies to minor offences.
Strict liability helps reduce the demands on the
Strict Liability Offence
To issue a fine, police only need to prove the driver was
speeding; intent does not matter.
cigarettes/alcohol to a
Whether the seller knew that the buyer was underage does
not matter; if the buyer was under 18, then it is a crime.
What are the implications of strict
There must be a link between the accused’s actions
and the result (injury, etc)
The behaviour of the accused must have actually
led to the criminal act
The Appellant was acquitted of murder but
convicted of manslaughter. The victim was an
18 year-old girl.
The Appellant went to her house and
attempted to rape the victim and inflicted
serious wounds. The victim collapsed and was
taken to the hospital.
Because of her religious beliefs, the victim
refused a life saving blood transfusion and
died as a result.
The judge instructed the jury that they could
find that Appellant was the operative or
substantial cause of death and convict on
The Appellant appealed, arguing that
because the victim refused life saving
medical treatment, his conviction for
manslaughter should be overturned.
Do you agree with the instructions to the jury?
The appeal failed.
He who inflicts a wound or injury which results
in death cannot excuse himself by pleading
that his victim could have avoided death by
taking better care of himself/herself.
A man who does a wrongful act is morally
responsible for the natural and probable
consequences of that act.
It has long been the policy of the law that
those who use violence on other people must
take their victims as they find them
Even though the acts of a hospital or the
victim themselves might be the actual cause
of death, a defendant’s act was the
operative cause and thus he can be held
If at the time of death the original
wound is still the operating cause
and a substantial cause, then the
death can properly be said to be
the result of the wound, albeit that
some other cause of death is also
Synopsis of Rule of Law
Other cases to investigate
March v Stramare (1991)
R v Cheshire (1991)