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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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