Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
CASES ON MENS REA 2
R v Latimer (1886) 17 QBD 359.
The defendant struck a blow with his belt at Horace Chapple which recoiled
off him, severely injuring an innocent bystander. The defendant was convicted of
maliciously wounding the victim, and appealed on the ground that it had never
been his intention to hurt her. The court held that the conviction would be
affirmed. The defendant had committed the actus reus of the offence with the
necessary mens rea, ie he had acted maliciously. There was no requirement in the
relevant act that his mens rea should relate to a named victim. Thus, Latimer’s
malice was transferred from his intended to his unintended victim.
R v Pembliton (1874) LR 2 CCR 119.
The defendant threw a stone at another person during an argument. The stone
missed the intended victim, but instead broke a nearby window. He was charged
with malicious damage to property and was convicted. The court, in quashing the
conviction held, that the doctrine of transferred malice was inapplicable where
the defendant’s intention had not been to cause the type of harm that actually
occurred. His intention to assault another person could not be used as the mens
rea for the damage that he had caused to the window.
COINCIDENCE OF ACTUS REUS AND MENS REA
Fagan v MPC  1 QB 439.
The defendant accidentally drove his car on to a policeman’s foot and when he
realised, he refused to remove it immediately. It was held that the actus reus
of the assault was a continuing act which, while started without mens rea, was
still in progress at the time the mens rea was formed and so there was a
coincidence of actus reus and mens rea sufficient to found criminal liability.
Kaitamaki v R  AC 147.
The defendant was charged with rape. His defence was that when he penetrated
the woman he thought she was consenting. When he realised that she objected he
did not withdraw. The Privy Council held that the actus reus of rape was a
continuing act, and when he realised that she did not consent (and he therefore
formed the mens rea) the actus reus was still in progress and there could
therefore be coincidence.
Thabo Meli v R  1 WLR 228.
The defendants had taken their intended victim to a hut and plied him with
drink so that he became intoxicated. They then hit the victim around the head,
intending to kill him. In fact the defendants only succeeded in knocking him
unconscious, but believing the victim to be dead, they threw his body over a
cliff. The victim survived but died of exposure some time later. The defendants
were convicted of murder, and appealed to the Privy Council on the ground that
there had been no coincidence of the mens rea and actus reus of murder.
The Privy Council held that the correct view of what the defendants had done
was to treat the chain of events as a continuing actus reus. The actus reus of
causing death started with the victim being struck on the head and continued
until he died of exposure. It was sufficient for the prosecution to establish
that at some time during that chain of events the defendants had acted with the
requisite mens rea.
R v Church  1 QB 59.
The same reasoning was applied in this case even though there was no
pre-conceived plan. The defendant had gone to his van with a woman for sexual
purposes. She had mocked his impotence and he had attacked her, knocking her
out. The defendant panicked, and wrongly thinking he had killed her, threw her
unconscious body into a river, where she drowned. The defendant’s appeal against
his conviction for manslaughter was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
R v Le Brun  3 WLR 653.
The defendant punched his wife on the chin knocking her unconscious. He did
not intend to cause her serious harm. The defendant attempted to move her body,
and in the course of so doing dropped her, causing her head to strike the
pavement. His wife sustained fractures to the skull that proved fatal. The
defendant’s appeal against his conviction for manslaughter was dismissed by the
Court of Appeal. Lord Lane CJ said:
“It seems to us that where the unlawful application of force and the
eventual act causing death are parts of the same sequence of events, the same
transaction, the fact that there is an appreciable interval of time between the
two does not serve to exonerate the defendant from liability. That is certainly
so where the appellant’s subsequent actions which caused death, after the
initial unlawful blow, are designed to conceal his commission of the original
Cite This Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below: