Law- General Defences- Examining all the possible defences for some one charged with murder- Actus Reus and Mens Rea

Essay by tsparkUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, February 2003

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General Defences

This is an assignment examining the general defences available to a person who is charged with a criminal offence. In this assignment I will establish to elements needed to be charged with a criminal offence, and how these elements have to be present for a person to be charged with an offence. Also looking how the lack of these elements works as a defence to the charges of a criminal offence.

Firstly we need to look at the elements that must be present for a person to be charged with an offence. There are two elements that need to be present; the first and essential element of a crime that must be proved to secure a conviction. This is referred to as 'Actus Reus'. In most cases the actus reus will simply be an act (e.g. appropriation of property is the act of theft) accompanied by specified circumstances (e.g.

that the property belongs to another). Sometimes, however, it may be an omission to act (e.g. failure to prevent death may be the actus reus of manslaughter) or it may include a specified consequence (death resulting within a year being the consequence required for the actus reus of murder or manslaughter). In certain cases the actus reus may simply be a state of affairs rather than an act (e.g. being unfit to drive through drink or drugs when in charge of a motor vehicle on a road).

The second element is 'Mens Rea' which means guilty mind. This means the state of mind that the prosecution must prove a defendant to have had at the time of committing a crime in order to secure a conviction. Mens rea varies from crime to crime; it is either defined in the statute creating the crime or established by precedent.