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Actus Reus Criminal A2. What is Actus Reus It is the physical element of a crime. It can be:- –An act or –A failure to act (an omission) or –A state of.

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Presentation on theme: "Actus Reus Criminal A2. What is Actus Reus It is the physical element of a crime. It can be:- –An act or –A failure to act (an omission) or –A state of."— Presentation transcript:

1 Actus Reus Criminal A2

2 What is Actus Reus It is the physical element of a crime. It can be:- –An act or –A failure to act (an omission) or –A state of affairs Usually the Actus Reus will be something the defendant does but there are situations when a failure to act (omission) will be sufficient for the Actus Reus State of affairs are where the defendant did not act voluntary. These cases are rare. Larsonneur (1933) usually strict liability offences e.g. in charge of vehicle under the influence of drink or drugs

3 Features of Actus Reus Must be a voluntary act For some offences there must be a consequence of the act E.g. Assault occasioning actual bodily harm (S47 offences against the person act 1861) most be some injury

4 Theft Act 1968 When a party appropriates property belonging to another. In Common Law the AR of murder is the unlawful killing of a person in being under the Queen’s peace.

5 Actus Reus Each crime has its own actus reus laid down by Common Law or by statutes. All interpreted by judges (case law) EG. Offences Against a Person Act 1861 occurs where a person unlawfully wounds or causes grievous bodily harm to another.

6 Involuntary Manslaughter Can arise in many different ways. Two of the main ways are:- Unlawful act manslaughter and (can not be committed by omission Lowe 1973) gross negligence manslaughter (can be committed by omission Stone V Dobinson 1977, must be a duty of care, omission failure to act.

7 Actus reus - Omissions Normal rule is that an omission cannot make a person guilty of an offence. Exceptions An act of parliament can create a liability for an omission e.g. Offence of failing to report a road traffic accident, Failing to provide a breath specimen Other countries have Good Samaritan Law e.g. Paris-Press – Princess Diana Omission is only Actus Reus where there is a duty to act. Five ways this duty arises: A contractual duty- Pittwood (1902) A duty because of a relationship Gibbins and Proctor (1918) A duty which has been taken non voluntarily Stone and Dobinson (1977) A duty through ones of official position Dytham (1979) A duty which arises because the defendant has set in motion a chain of events Miller (1983)

8 An Omission In English law- no good Samaritan law but a person can be found to be criminally liable because he has failed to act where he has a duty to act. A famous case highlighting this is: Pittwood (1902) A railway employee opened a level crossing to let a cart pass across the railway line, but had failed to shut the gates before going to lunch. A few minutes later; a passing train hit a cart crossing the track and the driver of the hay cart was killed immediately. The railway employee was found guilty of manslaughter.

9 General rule relating to Omission Normally in English law- a person will not be found to be criminally liable just because he has failed to act. There are however limited exceptions to this rule! There are 5 situations at common law where there is a duty to act and therefore a failure to act (omission) creates liability:

10 Omission But I didn’t do anything! Exactly!

11 Duty Under a contract, especially if it is a contract of employment. As in Pittwood 1902, the railway operative “had a duty to act arising out of contract”. Because of a relationship Such as Parent and Child Gibbins and Proctor Voluntarily undertaken e.g.. Care of an elderly relative. Stone and Dobinson Because of a public office, e.g.. police officer Dytham 1979 As a result of a dangerous situation created by the Defendant. Miller 1983

12 A State of Affairs In exceptional cases- the defendant may be found guilty of a crime just by being in a state of affairs that has been declared to be wrong. S4 Road Traffic Act 1988 It is an offence to be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or public place while unfit to drive through drink or drugs. The AR of the offence will be present even if the defendant has decided not to drive the vehicle in question and has planned to sleep in the car instead. The state of affairs of being in charge of the vehicle is enough to establish liability under the section of this Act.

13 Omissions Source ExplanationExamples Under an Act of parliamentParliament can word an Act so that it is an offence not to do something Failing to provide a specimen of breath(s6 Road Traffic Act 1988) A duty at common lawUnder contract, especially of employment Because of relationship e.g. Parent Child. A duty voluntarily undertaken e.g.. care of an elderly relative Because of Public office e.g. Police man As a result of a dangerous situation created by the defendant Other situations where a duty of care is owed Pittwood (1902) Gibbins & Proctor (1918) Stone V Dobinson (1977) Dytham (1979) Miller (1983) Santana- Bermudez (2003) Khan and Khan (1998) Wacker (2003)

14 Duty of Doctors There are times when Dr have to stop treatment. If this discontinuance of treatment is in the patients best interest then it is not an omission which can form part of an Actus Reus Airedale NHS trust v Bland (1993)

15 Task Activity Pg 12 Jacqueline Martin Criminal Law for A2. Answers

16 Result or Consequence However it is necessary in some cases to show more than just conduct- the result of the conduct must also be looked at. E.g. in the case of murder- the defendant’s violent act must have resulted in the unlawful killing.

17 Proving Actus Reus by Conduct Simple conduct of the accused may be enough to prove AR. Eg. Perjury: Lying under Oath. Appropriating: by taking property belonging to someone else- the AR of the offence will be established

18 Acts of Parliament can also create liability for an omission in limited cases… Examples: Failing to report a road traffic accident. Failing to provide a breath specimen as required. (Road Traffic Act 1988) Failure to provide a child with adequate food or clothing. (Children and Young Persons Act 1933)

19 Recap 1. Which two elements must be proved by the prosecution in order for someone to be criminally liable? b. Describe what these two elements are in simple terms.6 2. Are there any exception to this rule?2 3.What is Common Law and how is it different from statutory law.2 4. Describe the four ways in which Actus Reus can be proved.8

20 Actus Reus Statutes Common Law Act Omission State of affairs Applied by JudiciaryInterpreted by Judiciary Case Law Conduct CrimeResult Crime

21 Summary Actus Reus (the physical act) must be voluntary Usually an act but can be an omission or state of affair (very rare) Omission- failure to do something- only arise were duty to do something-set by act of parliament Five ways this duty arises: A contractual duty- Pittwood (1902) A duty because of a relationship- Gibbins and Proctor (1918) A duty which has been taken non voluntarily -Stone and Dobinson (1977) A duty through ones of official position- Dytham (1979) A duty which arises because the defendant has set in motion a chain of events -Miller (1983)

22 Case Law Larsonneur (1933) The defendant had been ordered to leave the UK. She decided to go to Eire, but the Irish police deported her and took her back to the UK. She did not wish to go back and was certainly not doing this voluntarily. When she landed the UK she was immediately arrested and charged that being an alien to who leave to land in the UK had been refused, she had been found in the UK. She was convicted because she was an alien who had been refused leave to land and she had been found in the UK. It did not matter that she had been brought back by the Irish police against her will

23 Case Law Pittwood (1902) a railway crossing keeper omitted to shut the gates, so that a person crossing the line was struck and killed by a train. The keeper was guilty of manslaughter. A more modern example would be of a lifeguard at a beach who leaves his post unattended. His failure to do his duty could make him guilty of an offence if a swimmer were injured

24 Case Law Gibbins and Proctor (1918) The father of a 7 yr old girl lived with a partner. The father had several children from an earlier marriage. He and the partner kept the girl separate from the fathers other children and deliberately starved her to death. They were both convicted of murder. The father had a duty of feed her because he was her parent and the mistress was held to have undertaken to look after the children including the girl, so she was also under a duty to feed the child. The omission or failure to feed her was deliberate with the intention of killing or causing serious harm to her. In these circumstances they were guilty of murder. The failure to feed the girl was enough for the actus reus (omission)

25 Case Law Stone and Dobinson (1977) Stones elder sister, Fanny came to live with the defendants. Fanny was eccentric and often stayed in her room for several days. She also failed to eat. She eventually became bed ridden and incapable of caring for herself. On at least one occasion Dobinson helped to wash Fanny and also occasionally prepared her food for her. Fanny died from malnutrition. Both defendants were found guilty of her manslaughter. Fanny was Stones sister, he owed a duty of care to her. Dobinson had undertaken some care of Fanny and so also owed her a duty of car. The duty was either to help her themselves or get help from other sources. Their failure to do either (omission) of these meant that they were in breach of their duty

26 Case Law Miller

27 Task Activity Pg 21 Jacqueline Martin Criminal Law for A2 Answers

28 Homework Revise and research the law relating to Actus Reus so that you can answer one of the exam questions on Pg 22 of Jacqueline Martin Criminal Law for A2 You will complete the question as a timed 1 hr essay at the start of the next lesson.

29 Bibliography Martin.J, Criminal Law for A2, Hodder Arnold, London, 2006

30 Task You have spent the last few weeks studying the Actus Reus. We need to find out what you know. Create a Mind Map to show all the points/facts you know about Actus Reus Include cases, rules, tests and key features of Actus Reus.

31 Actus Reus Elements Conduct Consequences Physical Elements of a crime Circumstances

32 Review Points relating to Actus Reus Physical Act Must be voluntary Omissions- Duty of Care –Parent, Contractual, dangerous situation, voluntary –Factual Cause –Legal Cause –Causation- medical intervention, contribution intervening acts Contribution Consequences Forseeability Intervening Acts

33 Cases R v Miller 1983-Omissions R V Stone and Dobinson 1977 R V Gibbons and Proctor 1918 R V Pittwood 1902 R V Dytham 1979 R V Khan and Khan 1998 Airedale NHS Trust V Bland 1993 R V White 1910 – conduct caused consequence R V Pagett Contribution R V Smith 1959 R V Blaue- thin skull rule R V Cheshire breaking C of C R V Malcherek 1981


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