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How Has The Law Developed On Intention?

1829 words - 8 pages

How has the law developed on intention?Mens Rea:One of the major elements in culpability is that the accused should have a mental state commensurate with committing the offence. This state is known as mens rea, which can be translated as "guilty mind" or "blameworthy mind". Nearly all criminal offences require a demonstration of mens rea. However, it is unusual to see the term mens rea used in statute; instead statutes use terms like "intend" or "reckless" to express the mental state of the perpetrator. Some offences do not use any such words, and may therefore be interpreted as strict liability offences.In general, for a criminal conviction to succeed there needs to be a demonstration of ...view middle of the document...

This term can be translated as `blameworthy act'; it is used to denote the event on which a criminal offence is based. In many cases the actus reus will be an explicit act (theft, assault, etc). In others it will be a prohibited state of affairs (e.g., having an offensive weapon in a public place). In some cases the actus can be an omission to act, but usually only when the accused had a legal duty to act. Sometimes the actus may not be the event itself, but the effect it has on the victim (e.g., in rape), or the circumstances that surround it (e.g., bigamous marriage).It is fundamental that the actus reus be a voluntary act; if a defendant could not have acted any other way then not only is he not liable, then the actus reus is deemed not have occurred. Of course there will be the "actus" part - the action - but it will not be "reus". In offences of strict liability this is important, because in those offences the prosecution has no duty to show a mens rea; thus an offence cannot be defended on the basis that there was no intention to comment the offence, but it can be defended on the basis that no offence was committed.This defence will only be available if the defendant truly had no choice; for example, someone else physically pushed him. A defendant who makes a choice between two equally dreadful alternatives (help us rob this bank or we'll shoot your wife) is not acting involuntarily in this sense, but he may have a general defence of duress.Recklessness:Recklessness is pure disregard for the dangers of a situation. It can in certain cases be seen as heroic - for example, the soldier fearlessly charging into battle, with no care for his own safety, has a revered status amongst some. However, recklessness is more commonly regarded as a vice - this same soldier may be a liability to his own side, or get himself killed for no benefit. Furthermore, recklessness can also be a disregard for the safety of others, such as "reckless driving", and this type of recklessness is almost universally condemned.Recklessness should not be confused with bravery. Although the two are related, the latter word is usually applied to cases where a person displays a more reasonable level of fear, rather than none at all.Intention:Murder is a crime of specific intent. Intention in this context includes direct or oblique intent. Direct intent covers the situation where the defendant desired the death. Oblique intent covers the situation where the death is foreseen by the defendant as virtually certain, although not desired for its own sake.The question of intention is also often problematic. People are generally held responsible for an act which they did not intent so long as the consequences were foreseeable. Thus, a person who shoots a gun into a crowd can be found guilty of murder even though they can argue that they did not intend to kill anyone because the results, someone's death, were readily foreseeable.The definitions of many criminal offences include terms...

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