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Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018

CASES ON MENS REA 2

TRANSFERRED MALICE

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 [1969] 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 [1985] 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 [1954] 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 [1966] 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 [1991] 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

unlawful assault.”


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