Criminal Law Sample

For someone to be liable of an offence in criminal law he or she must be proven to have committed a guilty act which is the state of actus rea and to also have a guilty mind which is to have the mens rea It is fundamentally decided by the judicators whereto an offence carries both of or either on of these conditions. By observing the circumstances it is evident that the non fatal offences in this case can be qualified under the Offences against the Person Act 1861 (OAPA). The offences are clear under s47 and questionably either s18 or s20 of OAPA 1861.

When Stan threw the bottle at Helen this can be classed as an assault under s47 of the OAPA 1861. It is defined as an assault because it is "occasioning actual bodily harm". So Stan is guilty under s47 of the OAPA because it is recognized that "whoever shall be convicted upon inducement of any assault occasioning actual bodily harm shall be liable1". However, it must be recognised that in order for Stan to be guilty he must have the actus rea and for that to be evident he must fill the criteria of the actus rea.

S47 requires proof of assault. In Faulkner v Talbot [1981] it was deemed that any touching of another person without consent2 is battery. It need not be hostile, rude or aggressive3. No contact is necessary for there to be an assault merely pulling out a weapon such as a knife is seen as an assault. So when Stan told the police that he had only threw the bottle to scare Helen it was irrelevant to his defence because fear of the use of force is common assault.

Secondly there must evidential actual body harm. It is defined as any hurt or injury calculated to interfere with the health of the victim4. Helen suffered a cut to her face that needed stitches so it is seen as assault and would be seen as ABH. If the cuts had been superficial then there would have been a weaker argument for the case. In R v Chan Fook5 it was ruled that actual bodily harm was also applicable to psychiatric damage. We are unable to determine whether Helen suffered any psychological damage.

Finally causation must be required for the actus rea where the actions are proven to have been the cause of the injuries. By creating a dangerous environment the defendant could be liable. In the case of R v Martin6. The defendant in that case was convicted of unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm7 even though it was not intended, so Stan's recklessness as to whether such harm would occur or not 8 is apparent as it was in R v Cunningham [1957] where the defendant disregarded a clear risk.

Stan not having provisions of his actions is not necessary as was in R v Savage [1991]. Both Causation in fact and law are present so it would contribute to the mens rea because Stan realized that throwing the bottle would cause Helen to suffer an injury either physical or mental. Stan had realized the risk of mental injury because he stated that he intended to scare her and in recklessness he proceeded. To determine whether Stan is guilty under section 18 or section 20 of the Offences against the person act we must first determine the facts of the case.

Under s20 of the OAPA 1861 whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously wound or inflict any grievous bodily harm upon any person with or without any weapon or instrument shall be guilty of an offence9. The distinction between s20 and s18 is the intention. Stan did not cause grievous bodily harm with the intent therefore he is unlikely to be charged under s 20 of the Offences against the Person act. The actus rea of s 20 consists of the unlawful wounding or the unlawful infliction to grievous bodily harm.

In DPP v Smith [1961] it was held that Grievous bodily harm meant serious harm to the victim including psychological. However in R v Ireland & Burstow [1998] where the defendant had made harassing phone calls to the victim and in R v Constanza [1997],10 Constanza was charged with assault because he was stalking the victim. In both cases they were causing fear for the victim so it is noticeable in Stan's case that he also had selected a weapon in this case being a glass bottle so his intention was predetermined and he had forethought his action.

This is enough to clarify the distinction between s20 and s18 making it clear that Stan is guilty for GBH, rather than ABH. This is because of his mens rea being to intentionally harm Helen. With regards to Oliver loosening the wheel on the Coach's car we must first take into account his actions, his intention and if his actions where the cause of injury to determine whether he is liable under s20 or s18 of the OAPA. Oliver had loosened the wheel of the car causing it to go out of control injuring several people so he the actus rea of the crime is clear.

His actions had intentionally caused Grievous bodily harm to the victim even though he may not have intended to he still had forethought so therefore has the mens rea for the assault. Causation is also evident because Oliver loosening the coach's wheel resulted in the loss of control of the car and if it was not for his negligence there would have been no injury. The mens rea is notable. Oliver did his activities of tampering with the vehicle out of anger and to cause grievous bodily harm even though it was to distress the victim he would still be liable as was the verdict in other cases such as DPP v Smith [1961]11 and R v Chan-Fook12.

Therefore his intentions must have caused some degree of harm to the victim. If the coach had been killed as a result of the accident then it is understandable that Oliver would be guilty of manslaughter. Manslaughter, being a lower form of homicide and its distinction can be broken down into two different categories. Yet though Oliver was in the heat of the moment when he loosened the wheel and was not of a reasonable state of mind he may be convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

However it seems that it is more rational to say that Oliver would be guilty of involuntary manslaughter because his actions cover more of the criterion of that ruling. This is due to the killing was not driven out of intention but more so out of negligence. Oliver's recklessness was the reasoning for sufficient criminal liability. The same as in the case of R v Caldwell13, when the defendant was setting fire to his employer's hotel was later charged and found guilty of arson even though he did not intend for it to take place.

Lord Diplock states that a defendant is reckless when he does an act which in fact creates an obvious risk that property will be destroyed or damaged14 and when he does the act he either has not given any thought to the possibility of there being any such risk or has recognized that there was some risk involved and has nonetheless gone on to do it. 15 In Oliver's defence it was almost an accidental killing, none the less Oliver would be liable of involuntary manslaughter because of his recklessness and negligence to outcomes of his actions and not having any forethought.