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Actus Reus

AS LAW - actus reus

mariyam yashfa

on 8 April 2015

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Transcript of Actus Reus

Actus Reus
What is actus reus ?
It is the wrongful act or omission that comprises the physical components of a crime. The actus reus is also known as" guilty act ".
Cardinal principal
 actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea,

which means: "an act does not make a person guilty unless (their) mind is also guilty“
Principles of Actus Reus
1)Physical part of the crime
2)The act has to be voluntary
3)It has to be an act, or failure to act
4)It has to be in a state of affairs
5)Results or consequences caused

The act needs to be voluntary
The accused's conduct must be "voluntary" or "freely willed" if he is to incur liability. It may be involuntary for a variety of reasons:

Reasons for why an act could be involuntary

Automatism occurs where the defendant performs a physical act but is unaware of what he is doing, or is not in control of his actions, because of some external factor.


Sometimes people can respond to something with a spontaneous reflex action over which they have no control. Although slightly different, this is sometimes classed as a form of automatism.


The conduct may be involuntary in that it is physically forced by someone else, in which case there will be no actus reus

Doing something that the law prohibits

Example- killing someone would be considered murder so it is a commission
What is an act or failure to act
Failure to act by not doing something that the law requires you to do

Usually not considered a crime with the exception of duties (aka duty of care

What are the duties ?
Statutory duty
a duty imposed by the statute
Relationship duty
a duty arising because of a relationship

A duty because of official position
where a certain job or position creates the duty
Contractual duty
a duty arising because of a contractual agreement
A duty because of a dangerous set of events has been set in motion
where d has set some dangerous events in motion and omits to act upon it
Voluntary duty
a duty someone has taken voluntarily

It is fair that the police gave a duty to protect the public

It is good that parents have a duty to take care of their children

It is fair those who set a dangerous chain of events in motion are expected to take responsibility for it

It is also fair that those who take duties voluntarily are expected to live up to what they agree to do

There are further duties than the six mentioned

The duties in statutory law are not specified

The statues impose too many duties, Impossible for someone to know them all

Duty of doctor’s is a difficult subject. Nothing defines the line between best interest and euthanasia

The physical part of the crime
According to the cardinal principal of criminal law , a crime must have two things

1)actus reus- which means guilty act
2)mens rea- which guilty mind

When the definition of an actus reus requires the occurrence of certain consequences, the prosecution must prove that it was the defendant's conduct which caused those consequences to occur. This can be shown when the chain of causation is not broken

Relevant cases
project by-

Voluntary cases
R v Quick (1973)

• Defendant was charged with assault
• D’s defense was automatism due to hypoglycemia
• His behaviour had been the result of external factors, ie the taking of insulin.

Leicester v Pearson (1952)

• Defendant was accused for failing to give precedence to a pedestrian on a zebra crossing
• His car was pushed by another car
Relevant Cases
1. Greener v DPP (1996)

Defendant left his dog unchained in a enclosure
Dog escaped and bit the face of a young child
Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 provides that if the owner of a dog allows it to enter a place which is not a public place but where it is not permitted to be and while it is there it injures any person, he is guilty of an offence
The defendant failed to take precautions and set dangerous events in motion

2. R v Pittwood (1902)
Defendant was a gatekeeper at a railway crossing
D left for lunch with the gate open
Hay cart was crossing the train when it got hit by a truck, killing a person and injuring another

4. Gibbons V Proctor (1918)
D and his common law wife failed to feed the man's 7 year-old child, Nelly
She died from starvation due to the negligence of the parents
5. R v Dytham (1979)
While on duty a uniformed police officer witnessed a murder
He then left without calling for assistance or summoning an ambulance.
3. R v Stone and Dobinson (1977)
A wife and husband took in one of their sisters, Fanny as a guest
The little sister got an infection and died
The couple was convicted with manslaughter as they failed to take Fanny to the hospital

6. R V miller(1954)
D fell asleep on the mattress with a cigarette
D woke up when the mattress caught on fire
D saw the fire and went to sleep in another room.

Relevant Cases
state of affairs
• R v Larsonneur (1933)
• Winzar (1983)
Relevant Cases
• R v White [1910]
The defendant put potassium cyanide into a drink for his mother with intent to murder her
The mother died from a heart attack
The defendant was originally charged of murder but convicted of attempted murder
* but for test can be applied here - as D did not fatually cause V's death since she would have died anyways
State of Affairs
A "state of affairs'' refers to the circumstances at a particular place and time.

R V Jordon (1956)
The defendant stabbed the victim
The victim was taken to hospital where he was given antibiotics after showing an allergic reaction to them.
He died of pneumonia 8 days after admission to hospital
At the time of death his wounds were starting to heal.
intervening act can be applied here as V died from the acts of a third party
The victim died of the medical treatment and not the stab wound. The defendant was not liable for his death.

The defendant, a French woman, lived in England legally and went to Ireland before her visa expired
She was then deported against her will, from Ireland to England, by the Irish authorities
Upon her arrival she was immediately charged with the offence of 'being' an illegal alien.
Her conviction was upheld despite the fact that she had not voluntarily come to England.
Admitted in the hospital
Upon examination he was found to be drunk and was told to leave.
Later he was found in a corridor of the hospital and the police were called to remove him.
The police officers took the defendant outside onto the roadway, then placed him in a police car and drove him to the police station .
He was charged with "being found drunk in a public highway".

since actus reus deals with the guilty act ,it could also be said that the actus reus of the crime is the physical part of a crime.

The chain includes

1)direct actions of the defendant
2factual causation
3)Legal causation
4)no intervening acts
5)resulted in a crime
R V pagget (1983)
The defendant was shooting at the police
D used his pregnant girlfriend as a body shield
D shot at a officer ,who fired back and shot the V(the gf)
V died of the shot
D was liable for her death since he was the operating and substantial cause of her death
legal causation can be applied here and you need substantial and operative causation to prove it
*not necessary to know all the names of duties
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