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Contemporaneity Rule

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by

Nicola Toshney

on 24 February 2013

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Transcript of Contemporaneity Rule

As a general rule the actus reus and the mens rea must coincide i.e. exist at the same time The Contemporaneity Rule held that where an offence requires MR, the prosecution must prove D had the MR at the time of the AR. When there is a continuing act Jackeman: Where there is a continuing act for the actus reus and, at some point whilst the act is still going on the defendant has the necessary mens rea, then the two do coincide and the defendant will be guilty. A chain of events. Where the AR is part of a series of events (‘transactions’) it may be enough to show that D has mens rea at some point during these. Thabo Meli v R The defendants plied the victim with drink so that he became intoxicated. They then hit the victim around the head, intending to kill him. In fact they only knocked him unconscious, but believing the victim to be dead, they threw his body over a cliff. The victim survived but died of exposure some time later. The defendants were convicted of murder and appealed on the ground that there had been no coincidence of the mens rea and actus reus of murder.

The Privy Council treated the chain of events as a continuing actus reus. The actus reus of causing death started with the victim being struck on the head and continued until he died of exposure. It was sufficient that at some time during that chain of events the defendants had mens rea. CHURCH D dumped the body of a woman (whom he thought was dead) into a river. In fact she was unconscious (he’d hit her) and she later drowned. The CA said this was ‘one transaction’ and D was convicted of manslaughter. Fagan v MPC (1968)
The defendant accidentally drove his car on to a policeman's foot and when he realised, he refused to remove it immediately. It was held that the actus reus of the assault was a continuing act which, while started without mens rea, was still in progress when mens rea was formed and so there was a coincidence of actus reus and mens rea.
In other words Fagan had criminal intention after having accidentally injured the officer but during a time when the car was still parked on the officer’s foot. The two elements of the crime are treated as occurring at the same time.
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