Essential Elements of a Crime

The Actus Reus is a voluntary deliberate act, all elements of a crime, excluding the mental element; it also includes the conduct, or result of consequence, a state of affairs. This happens where can be guilty, it is voluntary deliberate of the defendant (Hill v Baxter 1958) offences against the person act in s20. It must be proved by the prosecution to that the defendant committed a guilty act and also has a guilty mind. Stephen, a member f the gang Gunho gang has been arrested and charged with the killing of Vincent, a member of a rival gang.

Stephen grabbed and punched Vincent in the stomach, Vincent feel to the floor gasping for breath, Stephen panicked and ran leaving Vincent on the floor. Vincent and Stephen already had a hate for each other because they were member of different and rival gangs. Vincent was taken to hospital later on and given a new drug which he had an acute allergic reaction from and died of heart failure, neither Stephen nor the medical staff knew that the victim was acutely asthmatic.

In this case Stephen should be held accountable and responsible for either Manslaughter, grievous bodily harm or Murder, the Actus Reus was there since Stephen did intentionally punch Vincent, his intention was to hurt him, since he was dating his former girlfriend, if Vincent didn’t know it was wrong or dangerous in the first place it will not be linked to a voluntary act, as we take for example the case cited before Hill v Baxter 1958, where the driver was attacked by a swarm of bees and drove over a pedestrian, in this case, this was a voluntary act as he did not intend to cause any harm, the circumstance was beyond his control so he was not held accountable for the results. An omission is a failure to act; it is not the act itself.

The law only makes a person liable for his failure to act if he has a duty to act. Like in Pittwood (1902) where he was employed as a gatekeeper at a railway crossing, one day he went to lunch leaving the gate open. A cart crossing the line was hit by a train. One man on the cart was killed. Pittwood was convicted of manslaughter, based on his failure to carry out his duty to close the gate when a train approached as it was part of his employment contract. Omissions duty of care exists as a statutory duty, parents and children, motorists with other motorists, doctors and nurses with patients and teachers with pupils, police officers with members of the public. In this case Stephen did not own a duty of care to Vincent.

While judging this type of case the prosecutor must prove that Stephen caused the outcome and there has to be an uninterrupted link between the conduct and conclusion. Since Stephen did not kill Vincent the Factual causation which is also known as the “But for” rule will be used here. This can be seen in the White (1910), the son put poison in his mother’s drink intending to kill her so he could get his heritage, the mother died shortly thereafter as a result of a heart attack. The poison had not taken effect at that time. Since he had intended to kill her and she had died, he had not caused her death but for his actions his mother would have died anyways. He was guilty of attempted murder.

The defendant must also contribute to the consequences, this is legal causation like in the case R v Blaue (1975) where an 18 year old girl was stabbed by a man, when she was admitted at the hospital she was told that if she wanted to heal she needed a blood transfusion but she refused because of her religious beliefs and as a consequence died. The original injury must be cooperating and substantial cause. It should be noted that in medical intervention cases, there is a degree of sympathy for the doctors, who will be considered to have caused the injury or death only if treatment is seriously incorrect. The chain of causation can be broken if a third party comes along. “Take your victim as you find them”, the egg shell rule.

If the victim has an illness or condition which makes them more vulnerable to certain action even if not lethal, if it results in a more serious injury we cannot blame the victim which is the same for the scenario with Stephen who had no idea Vincent was acutely asthmatic, we could also see this in R v Watson (1989) it did not matter that the victim was an old man if he was therefore more likely to suffer a heart attack, then that was a risk the defendant must take. The Mens Rea is the guilty mind and is often the distinguishing factor between different crimes; it must be distinguished from motive. Motive can be relevant in some crimes such as racially assault and can also be a cause the court will take into consideration in making a sentence. In this case the only types of mens rea are intention and subjective recklessness.

The intention can be either direct or oblique; a person will be liable of a crime if they intend to perform a criminal act is perfectly reasonable, we can also see in R v Mohan (1976) where the direct intention is a decision to bring about, so far as it lies in the defendants’ powers, the criminal consequence, no matter whether the defendant desired that consequence of their act or not. It is different when the defendant’s aim is something different to the actual consequence, which is known as oblique intent, as the defendant intended the act but not the consequences such as the case of R v Hancock and Shankland (1986) where they participated in miner’s strike and pushed a concrete block in the road and killed a driver, they were not found guilty of murder as there was no mens rea.

Recklessness is a lower level of Mens Rea than specific intention and it’s when a defendant knows there is a risk but still pursues their actions such throwing a brick onto a window knowing that as it will break it could hit and injure someone but carries on anyways. Stephen and Vincent were from rival gangs which already raised some hatred between them so Stephen had the mens rea so he would be liable for either murder or manslaughter, he also voluntary assaulted the victim which could be GBH or ABH, even though Stephen was not the actual causation of Vincent’s death if he didn’t assault him Vincent wouldn’t have died, the “But For” test is applicable here which means that for he is responsible and liable for his actions. He is also the one who started these chains of events and participated in the result.

As Stephen is liable for Vincent’s death he should convicted of Manslaughter. The means rea was different as the result was an oblique intention he did intend to hurt him but not to kill him. The hospital should also be charged of Negligence as they owe a duty to their patients, they should have went through his medical history or asked his parents of any medical conditions he could have had or any allergies before using a new drug on him, however Jim did not owe a duty of care to Vincent so he would not be liable even though he witnessed the event, he will convicted of theft as he took this opportunity to steal from the victim valuable items.