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Criminal Law Basics. Dr Peter Jepson. Woolmington v DPP (1935). The Crown must prove - beyond all reasonable doubt - that the defendant has the fulfilled the actus reus , and has the necessary mens rea , for the crime of which he is charged. Actus reus = guilty act

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criminal law basics

Criminal Law Basics

Dr Peter Jepson

woolmington v dpp 1935
Woolmingtonv DPP (1935)
  • The Crown must prove - beyond all reasonable doubt - that the defendant has the fulfilled the actusreus, and has the necessary mensrea, for the crime of which he is charged.
  • Actusreus = guilty act
  • Mensrea = guilty mind.
actus reus
  • This will vary crime to crime.
  • For example, the actusreus of a battery is an unlawful touching.
  • Of an assault, it is the victim apprehending immediate fear or violence (Ireland).
  • For murder/manslaughter it is the unlawful killing of a human being.
mens rea
  • The mensrea also varies crime to crime.
  • The mensrea for murder is an intent to kill or cause serious harm (Woolin).
  • The mensrea for an assault is simply an intent to cause some harm (e.g. for the victim to apprehend some fear or violence).
intent causing greater harm
Intent – causing greater harm.
  • If D intends to assault/batter somebody, but causes them more serious harm then s/he will be liable for that harm.
  • So, if D slaps V across the face intending assault/battery and s/he causes bruises to his face – it would be ABH.
  • Likewise, if D slaps V across the face and cuts the face – could be GBH (s,20 – Eisenhower).
intent causing greater harm1
Intent – causing greater harm.
  • If D in anger pushes V ands/he accidentally falls under a car, and is killed, then D could be guilty of unlawful act manslaughter. Why?
  • Whereas, if D intentionally pushes V under a car - then that could be murder – since D intended V to die or suffer serious harm (Woolin).
did d s actions cause the death
Did D’s actions cause the death?
  • Suppose that I slap V across the face and she falls back and bangs her head and dies. What could I be guilty of?
  • What if a medic came and then put V on a life support machine? The Doctor decides to turn off the machine. Who has killed V?
  • What if a serial killer breaks into the ward and turns off all the life support machines? Who has killed V then? [Novus actusintervienens]
Causation …

Two elements - BOTH need to be established.

  • (1) Factual Cause - “but for test” - cases of White [1910] and Pagett [1983].
  • (2) Legal Cause - more complex and will be considered over the next few slides.
Causation …
  • “Something more than a trifling link” - Kimsey [1996]
  • What is the “thin-skull” rule? Explain how the case of R v Blaue [1975] relates.
a break in the chain of causation
A break in the chain of causation …
  • Break into Law Firms - The courts do not seem to accept a break in the chain of causation - but it can be broken. Discuss this and then explain to class using the cases of Smith [1959], Cheshire [1991] and Jordan [1956]. See Note: page 221.
  • What does the case of Malcherek [1981] establish?
Imagine …
  • Imagine that student D asks student V if she would like a lift home. She says “OK” - then D asks if she fancies a coffee. V then takes one look at him, panics, and opens the car door jumping out (she is hit by a bus and dies). Glance at the cases - think about it for a few mins - Is D guilty? Which cases apply?