FabReads Digest with Law 056 – Mens Rea
As a general rule, a person cannot be convicted of a crime unless it is proved that he/she has a guilty mind. This is enshrined in the principle ‘’actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.’’
CONCEPT SIGNIFYING THE STATE OF MIND
The court usually relies on the presumption that a man intends on the natural and probable consequence of his action. In Hyam v Dpp, the accused poured petrol into the letter box of her lover’s mistress’ house and then ignited it, knowing fully well that people were sleeping inside. She contended in court that she only had the intention to cause grevious bodily harm which she had foreseen as a highly probable result of her action. She was convicted of murder.
Thus in determining intent, there has to be proof that the consequence was a probable result of the act and was foreseen by the accused.
It means taking an unjustified risk. It occurs when the accused foresees the risk or knew that it was likely that his action would result in a crime but still went ahead with the action. For instance, check S59 of the criminal code. The test of recklessness was laid down in the old English case of R vs Cunningham.
A conduct that falls below the standard of a reasonable man. S138 of the criminal code, if a person who is in charge of confining a prisoner, negligently allows him to escape, he is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable with two years.
Generally, ignorance is not an excuse in committing a crime except if the knowledge of the offence can’t be proved.