Core 1: Crime
1. The Nature of Crime.
a) The meaning of crime.
Crime: any act or omission of a duty that results in harm to society and which is punishable by the state.
b) The elements of a crime.
Actus Reus: the guilty act. This is the voluntary commission of an act or voluntary omission of a duty that breaks the law. Important features are:
Act or omission actually took place
Done by the accused person
That it was voluntary.
Mens Rea: the guilty mind. This means that the person must have committed the act or omission with the intention to do so recklessly or with gross negligence.
The intention or specific desire to commit the act or omit the duty
Recklessness: the person could foresee the probability of harm, but acted anyway
Negligence: the person failed to exercise the degree of care, skill or foresight that a reasonable person would have exercised in the same circumstances.
c) Strict liability offences.
Strict Liability: offences are minor in nature e.g. speeding. For these offences it is not necessary for the prosecution to prove mens rea; proof of the act alone is suitable to constitute a crime.
The act or omission committed must have caused the specific injury complained of. The principles of causation mainly apply to murder and manslaughter charges.
Novus Actus Interveniens means a new intervening act must occur for the chain of causation to be broken. Circumstances where the ‘chain of causation’ has not been broken include:
a. The victims actions after the crime: e.g. Jehovah’s witness
b. Ordinary natural events: e.g. stabbed and left in snowstorm.
e) Categories of crime.
1. Offences against persons: involve the intended causing of injury to a person.
Homicide: the act of killing a human being.
Murder. To prove that a killing was murder, the prosecution must prove that at least one of the following exists:
The accused intended to deliberately kill the victim
The accused set out to inflict serious bodily harm, which resulted in death
The act was done with reckless indifference to another human life
The act was done while committing or attempting to commit another serious crime punishable by life or 25 years imprisonment.
Manslaughter. Differs from murder in the intent of the accused. There are three types:
Voluntary manslaughter: occurs when a person kills with intent, but there are mitigating circumstances (e.g. provocation), which reduce their culpability.
Involuntary manslaughter: the killing of a person where the death occurred because the accused acted in a reckless or negligent way, but without the intention to kill the person.
Constructive manslaughter: is the killing of a person while the accused was carrying out another dangerous or unlawful act, e.g. king hit.
Infanticide. Infanticide is a special category of manslaughter that applies to the death of a baby under 12 months at the hands of its mother.
Dangerous driving causing death. When a person drives in a reckless and unsafe way and causes the death of another human being.
Assault: causing harm or threatening to cause physical harm to another person.
Common assault: threatening to cause physical harm to another person
Aggravated assault: the assault of a person with an object rather than the assailant’s own body.
Sexual assault: when someone is forced into sexual intercourse against his or her will and without consent.
Indecent assault: and assault and ‘act of indecency’ on or in the presence of another person without their consent
2. Offences Against the Sovereign: involves criminal acts against the government:
Treason: an attempt or manifest intention to levy war against the state, or cause harm or death to the head of state.
Sedition: promoting discontent, hatred or contempt against a leader or head of state through slanderous use of language; in Australia, sedition involves offences or urging forces or violence against