Importance Of Mens Rea

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Mens Rea is the Latin word for a ‘guilty mind’ (Latin dictionary reference?). In the English Law it can be defined as ‘the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused’ (oxford dictionary reference) known as the Actus Reus of an offence. Mens rea is made up of four fault elements: Intention, Knowledge, Recklessness and Negligence. Establishing which category of Mens Rea an offence falls under is important in many cases where the prosecution must prove a ‘culpable state of mind’ (don’t have a reference but feel like need one) in respect to the result of the Actus Reus of an offence. Ascertaining what, and how much, the defendant foresaw can be said to be key when distinguishing…show more content…
For example: ‘If D foresees an outcome, and indeed welcomes it, but that outcome nonetheless plays no part in her decision to act, then she does not intend it’ (A point made by Kenny, “Intention and Purpose in Law” in Summers (ed.), Essays in Legal Philosophy (1968)). The case of Hyam (reference the case here) supports this argument: when setting fire to the house Mrs Hyam intended on frightening Mrs Booth, despite the fact she did foresee a possibility of killing Mrs Booth, she did not start the fire with the belief that her death would occur (make sure this is different from textbook). Although she was reckless, she did not intend to kill. What distinguishes intent from recklessness in this case is that the desire to scare was intended by the setting of the fire, and the foresight of death played no part in her decision to act. Although there has been a lot of debate on this point, the House of Lords recently accepted a distinction between intention and mere foresight (think this is from text book so try find reference). In Hancock (Hancock and Shankland [1986] AC 455) Lord Scarman spoke “foresight does not necessarily imply the existence of intention” ([1986] 1 AC 455,…show more content…
In the case of recklessness it is sufficient that a person not think about the possible results or take risk on the fact they don’t think the outcome is likely. Where as for knowledge, similar to oblique intention the defendant “ shuts his eyes and fails to enquire because he is virtually certain what the answer will be” (e.g. Ross v.Moss [1965] 2QB 369), in this case the court will invoke the doctrine of wilful blindness, the defendant will be considered to have actual knowledge. Therefore the extent to what the defendant foresaw is key. On the other hand the argument could be that its not a distinguishing factor due to the similarities regarding foresight between intention and knowledge.
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