Actus reus I: Focus on Conduct and Omission

The structure of a criminal offence – Actus reus I: Focus on conduct and omission

 

The Elements of a Crime

 

  • Actus Reus

 

Actus reus refers to the act or omission that contain the physical elements of a crime and is known as a ‘guilty act’. 

 

 

  • Mens Rea

Mens rea refers to the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that is part of a crime and is known as the ‘guilty mind’ or ‘internal element’.

 

What is required for a successful criminal conviction?

 

Actus reus + mens rea – any defences = criminal conviction

 

Actus Reus: The External Elements of the Offence

 

  • Conduct or omission:

The defendant’s (D) physical acts or omissions required for liability. The external movement of D’s body.

 

  • Circumstance:

Facts surrounding D’s conduct requires liability. Some crimes require a specific circumstance to exist. For example, for theft there must be property belonging to another and for sexual offences there must be intercourse without consent.

 

  • Result:

The effects of D’s acts required for liability. For some crimes, the conduct must cause a specific result. For example, for assault occasioning actual bodily harm and for murder there must be a dead person.

 

  • Causation:

This is the relationship between the conduct (or omission) and the result. (Please see the Causation topic for detailed information).

 

 

Omission Liability

 

There is a reluctance to impose liability for omission to act. However, there can be liability where there is

 

  • A recognised offence
  • A duty to act
  • A breach of that duty.

 

Key cases:

 

Winzar v Chief Constable of Kent (1983) 1 WLUK 670

 

Gibbins & Proctor (1918) 4 WLUK 25

 

DPP v Santana Bermudez [2003] EWHC 2908 (Admin)

 

R v Miller [1983] 2 AC 161

 

R v Dytham [1979] 3 WLR 467

 

Instan [1893] 1 QB 450

 

R v Evans [2009] 2 Cr APP R 10

 

Stone and Dobinson [1977] 1 QB 354