- Elements of guilt
- Actus reus: the guilty act
- Mens rea: the guilty state of mind
- Strict liability
- Parties to crime
- Secondary participation
- Assistance after the commission of an arrestable offense
- Presence at the scene of the crime
- Participation by omission
- Acquittal of principal offender
- Repentance of secondary parties
- The very special case of victims of secondary parties
- Corporate liability
- Vicarious liability
- Inchoate offenses
- General defences
- Private defense
- Duress by threat
- Duress of circumstances
What is an actus reus?
An actus reus is more than just an act. It includes whatever circumstances and consequences that are required for liability for the offense in question which means that an actus reus is composed by all the elements of an offense other than the mental element. Some crimes, such as murder, require production of result of consequences. Other offenses, such as rape or theft, only require a course of conduct. If any element of the actus reus is missing, there is no liability.
Voluntary conduct - When considering actus reus, the accused conduct must be voluntary. If the action is involuntary, there is no actus reus.
- The first reason to have a non-voluntary act is what is called automatism, which is the normal defence, and it happens when a person performs a physical act but is unaware of what he is doing, or is not in control of his actions. Judges have used different expressions about automatism: act performed involuntarily or unconscious involuntary action. Automatism can be seen as being relevant to actus reus, in the fact that the act is not voluntary or alternatively in terms of mens rea in as much as there is no mental element.
- The second case is physical force: the conduct is judged to be involuntary in as much as it is physically forced by somebody else.
- The third category is reflex action: it happens when people respond to something with a spontaneous reflex over which they have no control. Although it is slightly different, reflex action is often classified as a form of automatism. When a man driving his car was stunned by a swarm of bees and lost control of his car and caused an accident. There are 2 possibilities for the defense: automatism or reflex action. If they use automatism, they have to plead that every time someone is in a swarm of bees, he does that (but it is not convenient here). But, if they use reflex action, they have to show that there is no other option other than letting go of the wheel.
[...] In a joint criminal enterprise, two requirements must be satisfied before the defendant can be liable as a secondary party for an act of the principal offender. The principal offender's act must be within the scope of the joint enterprise: it must be an act contemplated by the defendant. The defendant must have foreseen that the principal would commit the actus reus of the full offense and that the principal would do so with the requisite mens rea for the full offense. [...]
[...] - To regulate quasi criminal activities in an as efficient manner as possible. Both principles were laid out very clearly in the Gammon case in 1984. This case concerned a breach of building regulation. The Privy Council held that although there was a presumption of mens rea to be read in all offenses, this can be displaced on clear evidence in 2 kinds of case: o Cases of public protection where social danger exists. o Quasi criminal offenses or of regulatory nature. [...]
[...] The general rule that ignorance of criminal law is no defence even if the ignorance is reasonable in the circumstance of the case. IV. Intoxication. In some circumstances, the defendant may not have the required mens rea at the time he commits the actus reus because at the time he is so intoxicated with alcohol or other drugs that he doesn't know what he is doing. This lack of mens rea should lead to an acquittal but for obvious social reasons very often there is a conviction for this. [...]