Actus Reus and Omissions

  1. What is Actus Reus?
    The physical element of a crime. In other words Actually doing the crime.
  2. What is Mens Rea?
    The Mental element of the crime. For example intending to kill a person.
  3. What could the Actus Reus of a crime include?
    • Conduct (doing Something)
    • Consequences (the Result)
    • Circumstances (the Conditions the crime has to take place under)
  4. Give an example of the 3 parts of the Actus Reus.
    The crime of murder is defined as 'causing the death of another human being under the Queen's Peace with malice aforethought'. 

    • Causing death = Consequence
    • Of another human being = Circumstance
    • Under the Queen's peace = Circumstance 
    • Malice aforethought - Intention = Mens Rea
  5. What is an omission?
    Failure to do something (in general you cannot be criminally liable for failing to act)
  6. As a general principle there is no criminal liability where D omits to do something. 
    What is the main exception to this rule?
    The main exception is where D has a duty to act.
  7. What are the four types of duty to act?
    • Statutory Duty to act.
    • Contractual Duty to act.
    • Public Office Duty to act.
    • Parental Duty to act.
  8. Give an example of a Statutory Duty to act?
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    Road Traffic Act 1988. 

    • S.6 - Failing to give a sample of breath
    • S. 170 - Failing to stop at a road accident

    Failure to give your name and adress
  9. Give an example of a Statutory Duty to act?
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    The Children and Young Persons Act 1933

    S1. - It's an offence for a person over 16 to fail to look after a child under 16
  10. Give an example of a contractual duty to act?
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    Pitwood (1902)

    A level crossing keeper failed to close a level crossing and a hay cart was struck by a train, killing the driver. 

    Held (the decision): Rejected his argument that his duty was owed simply to the railway company. He was paid to look after the gate and protect the public. Pitwood was convicted of manslaughter. 

    Point of law (reason for the decision) - If someone is paid to do a job they owe a duty to anyone who may be affected by their failure to do that job properly. They do not just owe a duty to their employer.
  11. Give an example of a contractual duty to act? 
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    D was the anaesthetist for a man who was having an operation for a detached retina. In the operation one of the tubes supplying oxygen to the patient disconnected. D failed to notice and the patient suffered a heart attack caused by lack of oxygen. The patient suffered brain damage and died 6 months later. The doctor was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter. 

    Point of law: The essence of the matter which is supremely a jury question is whether having regard to the risk of death involved, the conduct of D was so bad in all circumstances as to amount in their judgement to a criminal act or omission. 
  12. Give an example of a public office duty?

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    Dytham (1979)

    D was a police officer who was on duty. He saw a man (V) being thrown out of a nightclub about 30 yards from where he was standing. Following the throw out there was a fight in which three men kicked V to death. D took no steps to intervene or to summon help. When the fight was over D told a bystander he was off duty and left the scene. 

    He was convicted of misconduct in a public office.

    Point of law: Because D was a police officer, he was guilty of wilfully and without reasonable excuse neglecting to perform his duty.
  13. Give an example of a parental duty to act? Image Upload 6
    Gibbons and Proctor (1918)

    A man and his common-law wife failed to feed the man's 7 r old child, Nelly, and she died of starvation.

    Both were convicted of murder.

    Point of law: He owed a parental duty to her as the father and she voluntarily assumed duty. Therefore their omission was criminal. 
  14. Other family relationships and duties

    What happened in R v Hood?
    D was V's husband and her sole carer. She had suffered for years with brittle bones and broke a number in a fall but was reluctant to go to hospital. D failed to summon help for 3 weeks. She died in hospital. 

    Court of Appeal: Conviction for gross negligence manslaughter upheld.
  15. What is a 'voluntarily assumed' duty to act?
    Where the duty has been undertaken voluntarily.
  16. Give an example of Voluntarily assumed duty? 

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    A niece lived with her aunt who became ill with gangrene in her leg and was unable to feed herself or call for help. The niece neither fed nor summoned help for her even though she remained in the aunt's house and continued to eat her aunts food. The aunt's dead body was found in the house decomposing for about a week. 

    Held: Niece convicted of manslaughter. 

    Point of Law: A duty will be owed by anyone who voluntarily undertakes to care for another, whether through age, infirmity, illness etc. The duty may be expressed or implied.
  17. Give an example of voluntarily assumed duty? 
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    Stone and Dobinson (1977)

    Stones eldery sister, came to live with the defendants. She was eccentric and often stayed in her room for several days. She also filed to eat . She eventually became bedridden and incapable of caring for herself. On at least one occasion Dobinson helped to wash the sister and occasionally prepared food for her. She died from malnutrition. Both defendants were found guilty of her manslaughter. 

    Point of Law: Is someone assumes responsibility for another an omission to do so may result in criminal liability.
Card Set
Actus Reus and Omissions
Revision for the Actus Reus A2 Criminal Law booklet (includes omissions)