Mens Rea


Mens Rea is the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that forms part of a crime.


  • It is different to the Actus Reus which is the action or conduct of the defendant (D).


The difference between subject and objective Mens Rea


Subjective Mens Rea – This is concerned with D’s perception and mind at the time of the crime being committed.


Objective Mens Rea – This relates to what D ought to have known at the time of the crime being committed. Moreover, what would the reasonable person have done if they were in D’s position?




  •      Intention refers to the mental element and guilty mind of D to commit a crime.


Direct and oblique intention


  •      Direct intention


This relates to D’s desire or purpose to produce the consequence. An example is D smashes V’s phone in retaliation for V scratching D’s motorbike.


  •      Oblique intention


D does not desire to produce the consequence. However, D is known to be certain that the consequence will occur.



Oblique intent: the virtual certainty test


  •      D intends if he/she foresees that if the act element is completed, it is virtually certain that:
  •      The circumstances will be present, or the result will be caused
  •      And the jury choose to find intention. (If the jury does not, it is recklessness).


Relevant case law:


R v Moloney [1985] 2 WLR 648


R v Hancock and Shankland [1986] AC 455


R v Nedrick [1986] 1 WLR 1025


R v Woollin [1999] 1 AC 82


Matthews and Alleyne [2003] EWCA Crim 192





  •     This is a lower level of mens rea than intention.


  •     Recklessness is where D knows there is a risk of the consequence occurring but still takes that risk.



The Current Law


  • D is reckless when he is aware that the risk exists or will exist; and
  • It is in the circumstances known to him, unreasonable to take that risk.

Subjective v Objective intention


  •      Subjective intention– D is reckless if he/she foresees the risk and goes on to run it.


  •      Objective intention – D is reckless if he/she runs a risk that a reasonable person would have foreseen (i.e. even if they did not foresee it).



  • Negligence is a type of behaviour that falls below the standard of reasonable people.


Transferred Malice


  •     The defendant can be liable if he intended to commit a similar crime but against a different victim.



Relevant case law:


Steane [1947] 1 All ER 813


Smith [1960] 2 QB 423


Latimer (1886) 17 QBD 359


A-G’s Reference (No 3 of 1994) [1997] 3 All ER 936


R v G [2008] UKHL 37


Church [1966] 1 QB 59


R v Cunningham [1957] 2 All ER 412


R v Caldwell [1981] 1 All ER 961