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Cases on Mens Rea 2

937 words (4 pages) Case Summary

6th Oct 2021 Case Summary Reference this In-house law team

Jurisdiction / Tag(s): UK Law

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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.


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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