Mens Rea

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Mens rea and defences in European criminal law

The three types of accepted mens rea elements are intention, recklessness or negligence. Criminal intention can be further broken into two groups, direct and oblique. A direct intention is the willful desire to commit an act.


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It must be understood that the intention sufficient to amount to mens rea is only the intention to perform the required criminal act, not an intention for the result to occur. The requisite mens rea is intention to cause assault.

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If A intentionally assaults B and harm results, he is guilty of the offence. The fact that he does not intend harm is irrelevant.

Mens rea

He intended to do the act, and harm is simply a by-product. Oblique intention, also known as indirect intention, refers to a knowledge or belief that a consequence is a virtual certainty, and acting with this in mind, although the result may not be intended.

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To explain further: A intends to punch B, but they are separated by a pane of glass. His intention to punch B is direct as he desires to perform this act. Breaking the glass in pursuance of his goal amounts to the actus reus of criminal damage, but A does not desire for this to take place.

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The mere fact that a defendant committed the crime is sufficient to satisfy any inquiry into the defendant's mental state. This lack of a guilty mind would act as the fifth, and least blameworthy, of the possible mental states. For a strict liability crime, it is sufficient for the prosecution to prove that the defendant committed the wrongful act, regardless of the defendant's mental state.

The Brains and Brawn of Criminal Law: Mens Rea and Actus Reus | Queen's Certificate in Law

Therefore, a guilty state of mind is irrelevant to a strict liability offense. Examples of strict liability offenses in criminal law often include possession and statutory rape.

Many commentators criticize convicting defendants under strict liability because of the lack of mens rea. A minority of states reject the MPC approach. Cornell Law School Search Cornell. Overview Mens Rea refers to criminal intent.