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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  2 WLR 648
R v Hancock and Shankland  AC 455
R v Nedrick  1 WLR 1025
R v Woollin  1 AC 82
Matthews and Alleyne  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.
- The defendant can be liable if he intended to commit a similar crime but against a different victim.
Relevant case law:
Steane  1 All ER 813
Smith  2 QB 423
Latimer (1886) 17 QBD 359
A-G’s Reference (No 3 of 1994)  3 All ER 936
R v G  UKHL 37
R v Cunningham  2 All ER 412
R v Caldwell  1 All ER 961