How has the law developed on intention?

Essay by GremioUniversity, Bachelor'sB, April 2004

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How has the law developed on intention?

Mens Rea:

One of the major elements in culpability is that the accused should have a mental state commensurate with committing the offence. This state is known as mens rea, which can be translated as "guilty mind" or "blameworthy mind". Nearly all criminal offences require a demonstration of mens rea. However, it is unusual to see the term mens rea used in statute; instead statutes use terms like "intend" or "reckless" to express the mental state of the perpetrator. Some offences do not use any such words, and may therefore be interpreted as strict liability offences.

In general, for a criminal conviction to succeed there needs to be a demonstration of culpability. On the whole, the accused will culpable if at the time of the offence

· He or she was not exempt from liability; for example, the perpetrator may be exempt if below the age of criminal consent

· The act, which is the subject of the prosecution, is properly attributable to the accused; for example, the accused may not be culpable if the act was indirectly caused by someone else.

If the act was involuntary, this also is a defence.

· The accused must have had a mental state commensurate with the carrying out of the act, at the time of the act. The state of mind may reflect an intention to cause harm, or a reckless disregard for the fact that harm may result.

· The accused has no general defence (self defence, protection of another person, etc.) or special defence.

Actus Reus:

Although it is illogical, English law reflects the feeling in society that the degree of culpability is proportional to the degree of harm. Suppose, for example, that a person fires a gun into a crowded...