Strict Liability In Criminal Law

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THE EFFICIENCY OF STRICT LIABILITY IN CRIMINAL LAW Most offences are now defined by statute. Usually the statute will state whether the offence requires a mental element and also define what the mental element is. Often the definition uses a word or phrase like “knowingly”, “recklessly”, “wilfully” and “dishonestly” in which it gives guidance to the court. But in some statute this kind of word or phrase is absence, hence the court will find that mens rea is not required. And this is basically in what so called strict liability and it is also can be seen an exception to the general principle of a criminal liability. This might be too general and not sufficient enough to understand what is strict liability is. So, there are fews definition…show more content…
The smallness of the penalty Strict liability is most often imposed for offences which carry a relatively small maximum penalty, and it appears that the higher the maximum penalty, the less likely it is that the courts will impose strict liability. However, the existence of severe penalties for an offence does not guarantee that strict liability will not be imposed. In Gammon Lord Scarman held that where regulations were put in place to protect public safety, it was quite appropriate to impose strict liability, despite potentially severe penalties. Obviously these four factors overlap to a certain extent – regulatory offences usually do have small penalties, for example. And in Alphacell v Woodward, the House of Lords gave their decision the dual justification of applying the common-sense meaning of the term ‘cause’, and recognising that pollution was an issue of social concern. It is important to note that all these categories are guidelines rather than clear rules. The courts are not always consistent in their application of strict liability, and social policy plays an important part in the decisions. During the 1960s, there was intense social concern about what appeared to be a widespread drug problem, and the courts imposed strict liability for many drugs offences. Ten years later, pollution of the environment had become one of the main topics of concern, hence the justification of the decision in Alphacell v Woodward. Today, there appears to be a general move away from strict liability, and some newer statutes imposing apparent strict liability contain a limited form of defence, by which an accused can escape conviction by proving that he or she took all reasonable precautions to prevent the offence being committed. However, the courts could begin to move back towards strict liability if it seemed that an area of social concern might require

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