Actus Reus is the physical act of a crime. it may also be defined as all the material elements in the definition of an offence except the accused’s mental state.
It consists of conduct, circumstance, result or consequence of conduct or omission. However, these three elements do not need to be present in every offence.
Categories of Actus Reus
1. Voluntariness of conduct: for a conduct to amount to actus reus, the act must be voluntary. An act would be involuntary if it is caused by reflex action or a convulsion or if it occurs during sleep walking. This is stated in Section 24 of the criminal code. See the case of Martin vs The State.
2. Omission to act: an omission to do an act would not be a crime unless the doing of such act is a duty imposed by law. There are four categories of omission under the law that would amount to a crime which are:
- Statutory duty to act: S136 of the penal code
- Contractual duty to act: S305A(1) of the criminal code
- Special relationship between the parties e.g husband and wife, parent and child
- Voluntary assumption of duty: S305 criminal code.
3. Causation: it must be proved that the accused’s conduct caused the consequences prohibited by law. We have factual and legal causation.
- Factual causation: The prosecution must prove that the accused conduct was a factual cause of death. As seen in the case of R vs White, where White poisoned his mother but she didn’t die of poison but of heart attack which had nothing to do with the poisoning. He was acquitted of murder because he didn’t in fact cause her death but was convicted of attempted murder.
- Legal causation: S314 of the criminal code.