• Actus Reus: a wrongful deed
  • Mens Rea: a guilty mind

Actus Reuscan be a physical act (hitting someone), a failure to act (watching someone being hit), or a state of being (having stolen property in your possession). It must be shown that a person committed an act prohibited by law.

Mens Rea is the mental element of a crime. It includes motive, intent, knowledge, and recklessness/carelessness.

Motive: The reason for doing something. A person can have a motive and not commit an offence (if they choose not to act on their motive). A motive can be used as circumstantial evidence in a trial, but it does not constitute a proof of mens rea by itself.

Intent: What a person means to do.

General Intent: A person commits a wrongful act for its own sake, with no ulterior motive.

Specific Intent: A person commits a wrongful act for the sake of accomplishing another.

Knowledge: of certain circumstances; i.e. perjury – making false statements under oath, or using a credit card known to be stolen.

Recklessness: a careless disregard for one’s actions; knowing that certain conduct may be harmful but continuing it anyway.

Regulatory Offences (without mens rea)

  • Strict Liability Offences: require that the accused acknowledge that the offence took place but then offer the defence of due diligence; meaning that the accused made every effort to avoid committing the crime.
  • Absolute Liability Offences: offer no defence at all. Once the Prosecution has established that the offence/crime took place and that the accused was the perpetrator then they are automatically guilty.

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Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "Elements of a Crime: Actus Reus & Mens Rea," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019, https://schoolworkhelper.net/elements-of-a-crime-actus-reus-mens-rea/.
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