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MENS REA prt 2- CRIMINAL LAW

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...   Grand Master - ,  2:32 am On 9 Sep 2017

I ended the last post on the series with this interesting question:
IF A SETS FIRE ON B's PICTURES MALICIOUSLY WITH THE INTENT TO BURN IT AND IN THE PROCESS THE FIRE ESCAPES AND BURNS DOWN DOWN B's HOUSE, WILL
A BE LIABLE?

There were so many diverse opinions and responses. Not suprisingly so, the topic mens rea is quite interesting topic.

We were examinning the following elements of mens rea:
1. knowledge
2. Intention
3. Forseeability
4. Desirability
5. Motive
6. Malice
7. Negligence/Reckleness

we examined the first two in the last post, today we shall examine the last five. Hopefully at the end of this discourse you should be able to answer the above question better.

FORESEEABILITY: according to section 24 of the criminal code, except where a particular intention is declared as an element of a crime, it is immaterial that the result of the accused act or omission was not what he intended. So, if A points a toy gun at B to scare him, and B jumps off the balcony and breaks his neck. A would be liable even though he never intended that result. The question is how far will this chain of responsibility go. Take for instance, B owes A money and A threatens B that if he does not pay him his money before 12pm the next day, he will come to his house to kill him; and before 12pm, B commits suicide. Could A be convicted of manslaughter?

This is where the test of foreseeability comes in. Literally, the rule is that 'a person is only liable for the foreseeable consequences of his actions', the test is whether a reasonable would foresee the result as a probable consequence of his action; if a reasonable man can, he will be liable, if not, he will not (see The Wagon Mound (No 1) [1961] AC 388 (Privy Council). In that case, the defendant's vessel, The Wagon Mound, leaked furnace oil at a Wharf in Sydney Harbor. Some cotton debris became embroiled in the oil and sparks from some welding works ignited the oil. The fire spread rapidly causing destruction of some boats and the wharf. It was held that the defendant should have foreseen the possibility of a fire outbreak.

MOTIVE/DESIRABILITY/MALICE: The term Motive connotes the reason for doing a thing.

Desirability connotes that not only was the act of the accused willful he foresaw the consequence and desired it.

Malice connotes ill motive or spite. Section 24 of the criminal code provides that unless otherwise expressly declared, the motive by which does an act or omit to do an act is irrelevant.

That means that as far as liability is concerned, it makes no difference whether the defendants acts were motivated by malice or good intention. Thus, if A willfully kill B in order to save B from unbearable pain, A will still be liable for murder.

Motive is however a relevant fact under section 6 of the Evidence Act; thus, prosecution or defence may however give evidence of motive to establish or negate the existence of mens rea. Also, certain offences requires the prove of motive by use of certain phrases such as '...in order to escape punishment' here, the prosecution must prove that the motive is to escape punishment.

NEGLIGENCE/RECKLESSNESS: Negligence is failure to take the standard of care expected of a reasonable man in the accused station of life (see DONOGHUE v. STEVENSON).

The question is what would a reasonable man have done? The standard of negligence required for criminal liability is higher than the standard required in tort. The standard of negligence required for criminal liability is gross negligence or recklessness (see R v. BATEMAN(1925)28 COX's CRIM CAS 33).

Recklessness connotes that the accused foresaw the probability of the consequence but did the act nonetheless in utmost disregard for the consequences of his action.

N:B- In strict liability offences, the prosecution need not prove mens rea.

Use the comment box to tell us your opinion or suggestion or questions, we are listening. You may also try to answer the question above again. Your feedback is important to us.


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