Actus Reus Notes
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Actus Reus • AR = the conduct element. Prescribes what needs to be done, in what circumstance and with what result (but not necessarily all three). o Result: V is killed (note that we don't really criminalise results in themselves, but rather the causation of results). o Conduct: in rape: penetration. o Circumstance: property belongs to another. • All crimes have an AR. It is possible to have missing MR elements but this is not so for AR.
• Stephen LJ: "It is not a crime to cause death or injury, even intentionally, by any omission".
• This is not strictly true, but we are usually unwilling to prosecute for omissions: o Criminal liability for failure to act breaches autonomy. o It is less burdensome of the law to require someone to refrain from doing something then it is to oblige him or her to do it.
• Often difficult to distinguish between acts and omissions (e.g. child accidentally puts hand on D's genitals in Speck, but D is guilty of an offence by positive act). o Note relevance of 'killing' v 'letting die'. Doctors could turn of life support in Airedale v Bland because it was allowing nature to take its course. Mustill: 'the omission to perform what had previously been a duty will' not be illegal.
• EXCEPTIONS: o Duty to act: can arise by virtue of (note that where there is a duty D must do what is reasonable, as assessed by a jury): Automatically arising duty e.g. parent. Assumed duty for a person e.g. carer. Includes stepparent; this is a continuing duty once adopted (Gibbins v Proctor, Stone and Dobinson). Contractual obligation (Pitwood) Statute: failure to provide a breath specimen to a police officer. Also in Children and Young Persons Act 1933. Common law duty: most common is refusal to assist a police officer when called upon to aid in restoring peace. o D creates a dangerous situation - the Miller principle, where D fell asleep and caused a fire from his cigarette. He had a 'responsibility' to put out the resulting fire. Subtly expanded in Evans.
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