Non-fatal Offences Against the Person

Discuss Alice's criminal liability in connection with the incidents involving Briony and Chris. (Your answer should also discuss any relevant defences. ) Possible charges, which Alice could be charged with, include offences contrary to sections 18, 20 and 47 under the offences against the person act 1861. The most serious offence is s18 causing GBH with intent; the offence is broken into two parts; The mens rea, which is the defendant's guilty state of mind, which in this offence is an intention to cause GBH and the actus reus, which is the guilty act.

The actus reus of the offence is the GBH, which means serious bodily injury has occurred, (R V SAUNDERS) and whether this was caused directly or indirectly to the victim. (R V MARTIN). In Alice's case she has committed the actus reus by causing deep cuts to Chris's fingers but she didn't intend to cause GBH with intent so there is no prove of mens rea. The next possible offence is s20 maliciously wounding or inflicting GBH; the offence is then looked at in two parts. The actus reus of the offence is the GBH caused to the victim, which is the deep cuts to the fingers, caused either directly or indirectly.

The mens rea is the word maliciously, which means intention to cause some harm. Therefore Alice needed to have intentionally or subjectively recklessly caused some harm to Chris. (R V MOWATT). The actus reus of this offence is proved. The mens rea could possibly be proved because she wrote the letter and taped a razor blade to the bottom knowing that some harm would come around to whoever opened the letter. s47 assault occasioning ABH requires that for the actus reus there needs to be some physical harm to the skin, flesh or bones and also psychiatric harm.

(R V CHAN-FOOK). The mens rea is needed only for the assault itself. Occasioning means causing the assault through either intention or subjective recklessness. (R V PARMENTER: SAVAGE). The assault in this case for Chris was battery, the actus reus was proved because there was physical harm to the skin and there was also mens rea for assault because she intended to cause harm by sticking a razor on a letter and posting it. Under this offence Alice could also be liable for the mental fear of Briony because the offence now covers psychiatric harm.

Psychiatric harm is required to have evidence from an expert. Due to the fact that Alice had been heavily drinking her actions may have been caused by the substantial amount of alcohol, therefore her mental and physical state may have been affected so she may be able to plead a possible defence or voluntary intoxication. Voluntary intoxication means that she knew she was drinking the alcohol at her own free will. (b) Reform of the law on non-fatal offences against the person has been proposed on a number of occasions.

Explain why reform is said to be necessary, and consider any proposals for reform. The Offences Against the Person Act was initially set up to discipline those who commit assault and acts of violence against others. The reform of the act is therefore vital because the act needs to be kept up to date with new offences and new procedures. The law commissions published a criminal bill which would have repealed sections 18, 47 and 20 under the act to be changed because the language used is too complex, old fashioned, obscure.

They also requested that the structure was inadequate with the three sections because it was complicated and technical and that mistakes by legal professionals were bound to result. However the Bill wasn't enacted. The Government 5 years later decided to suggest points which needed changing. The first was that in 1996 there were 83,000 court cases involving non-fatal offences and it was therefore necessary that the law governing such behaviour should be clear, well understood and full-bodied. The Law Commission in their criminal justice bill suggested this.

I believe this is an important factor because for justice, which is fair and just, the court needs to be able to understand the act and offence in which they are charging the defendant in order for the right verdict to be passed. There were aims of proposed new offences that would enable violence to be dealt with successfully and that the law would be set out clearly in plain modern day terms. The purpose of the reforms was to replace outdated offences with a logical and consistent set of new offences.

The Government doesn't intend to make the offences more lenient, but to make them clearer and easier to digest. The Government produced a hierarchy of offences, which were reflected by the Law Commission. S18 wounding or causing GBH with intent, had a proposed new offence; this involves a person who is guilty of an offence if he INTENTIONALLY causes SERIOUS injury to another. The term injury means either physical injury (caused by disease, includes pain, unconsciousness and impairment of a persons physical condition) or mental injury (anything caused by disease and any impairment of a persons mental health).

S20 wounding or inflicting GBH, a person is guilty of an offence if he RECKLESSLY causes serious harm to another. The word recklessly in this offence has replaced maliciously. Common law assault and Battery, are described as a person being guilty of intentionally or recklessly applying force which causes an impact upon another (battery) and recklessly or intentionally causing others to believe that such a force or impact is imminent (assault). The new meanings for assault and battery are a lot easier to understand and use in a case.

The new term is short and easy to take in making the offence easier to understand. The Government have also put forward preferred definitions of the mens rea of an offence. Direct intent is where a person acts intentionally with a result of his purpose to cause the harm and oblique intent where it is not his purpose to cause harm, but he knows it would occur if he were to succeed in his purpose of causing some other result. The new terms of the definition of intention are a lot easier to follow and apply to a case. This means that the jury are less likely to make a mistake with intention in a case.

Therefore reform is necessary to keep the law on offences up to date with the social changes and expectations, which change in a society on a regular basis to keep a subsidised and fair equality for all people who commit wrongs. Through using the reform and keeping the law up to date the courts and juries are more likely to find sentencing of offences a lot easier and more suitable because they are shortened down and offences are categorized into adequate sub sections. Therefore an appropriate guideline is set which all people whether legal professionals or ordinary people are able to understand and apply properly to a case.