ACTUS REUS

“For something to be a crime there must be both an actus reus and mens rea — that is, a criminal act accompanied by a criminal state of mind.” ― Alan Dershowitz[1]

I. INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS ACTUS REUS?

Actus non facit reum nisi sit rea: was one of the first ever maxims that every student of the criminal justice system is taught.[2] Actus reus means the act or failure to act constituting the statutory tangible elements of the crime. Actus reus is limited to a discretionary positive action or default (inability to act) that results in a criminally stipulated consequence.

For example- The notion of invading and occupying B’s estate is the guilty intended outcome, or Mens Rea, whereas the act of attempting to attack B using a knife is the Actus Reus, or an act to achieve the intension.[3]

II. PRETEXTS/ESSENTIALS OF ACTUS REUS:

In any jury case, the three most significant issues to ask are, first, if there was a heinous crime, or actus reus that occurred; secondly, who committed it; and third, if the suspect possesses the component of mens rea. Some examples of actus reus includes murder, assault, bigamy or rape etc. [4]

The notion of actus reus is not explicitly mentioned under ipc, however, there sre some sections that define the basic elements pertaining to the same. According to Section 39 of the IPC[5], an individual is considered to induce an influence voluntary basis when he employs means that he understood exactly or had reason to think were most likely to produce the impact. This signifies that an individual is assumed to entail the probable results of his actions. In addition to intent, Section 39 also considers knowledge as well as valid cause for belief.

In other words, the actus reus, or even some result of the development of it, is considered to have happened over a time period as opposed to occurring at a single point in time.

III. JUDICIAL INTERPRETATIONS ON ACTUS REUS:

CAUSATION: R v White[6] is an instance of Criminal Law involving Actus Reus. Because the action of the defendant is not a direct cause, there is no causal link.The court determined that the defendant was convicted of attempted homicide, a crime of actions that does not require causation.

VOLUNTARY ACTUS REUS: In R v Quick[7], the complainant was charged with assault resulting in actual bodily injury. Due to hypoglycemia caused by an administration of insulin recommended for diabetes, the complainant attempted to assert an automaticity defence. The court firstly determined that the proof could only endorse an insanity defence. He entered a plea of guilty. The Court of Appeal, in granting the appeal, ruled the order to prove a defence of insanity based on a deficiency of rationale induced by illness of the mind, a suspect must demonstrate a fault of the psyche due to disease, and because the appellant’s physician had recommended the insulin, it was an extraneous variable rather than a disease. Therefore, he had the right to have the jury consider his defence of automatism. Here, the court held that the actus reus must be voluntary. 

STATE OF AFFAIRS: A French national was relocated against her wish to England due to a clause in her passport mandating her instant dismissal from the United Kingdom by a specific deadline. She was initially charged as well as afterward convicted of the offense of being an unlawful alien toward whom permission to land in the UK was denied. The Court of Criminal Appeal determined that, pursuant to Article 1(4) of the Order, the French national was presumed to belong to the category of individuals whose landing was prohibited. By entering the United Kingdom after the date specified on her passport, she engaged an offence for which she was accused. The events surrounding her come back to the United Kingdom were irrelevant.[8]

IV. AN AMBIGUITY: THE NOTION OF CONTINUING ACT

In the case of R v Le Brun[9], During a verbal altercation, the complainant struck his wife. The complainant tried to elevate his subconsciously wife, but she slid from his reach and landed on the ground, resulting in her death. The defendant was accused of murder. The judge told the jury that they might convict the complainant of manslaughter or murder if they felt convinced that, after committing the attack, the complainant slipped the wife unintentionally, resulting in her death. The appellant was found guilty of second-degree murder. The Court of Appeal, Criminal Division, in rejecting the appellant’s appeal, retained that when the illegitimate use of force and the subsequent act resulting in death were component of the identical chain of events, despite the mens rea was encapsulated in the preliminary illegitimate assault as well as the actus reus was the subsequent act causing fatality, the reality that there had been a significant difference of time period between the two acts didn’t  acquit the respondent from liability for manslaughter or murder. What is insufficiently explained in Le Brun is the type of critique that must be accessible to the successive behaviour, enabling new courts room for expansive readings of the case that may place too much focus on the fact of causal agency per se.

V. THE FINDINGS:

Our objective had been to determine and assess causal agency in instances wherever there would seem to be temporal random occurrence between actus reus and mens rea, but courts nevertheless seek the coincidence requirement contented in shape or component.

Legally, it should not be possible to conclude that a person’s conduct was initially culpable despite the fact that he or she was not to blame for a situation that endangers legally accepted preferences and failed to take reasonable precautions to safeguard them. Causal agency is adequate reason for removing the no obligatory assistance principle, but the resulting liability should be restricted to a freshly formed offence of failure to take reasonable steps.

VI. CONCLUSION:

The goal of this article was, first of all, to illustrate the diverse range of circumstances in which the do has been used; secondly, to recommend that the common factor connecting the occurrences of its usage is the concept of causation; and lastly, to determine when implementation of the rules of causation can provide a credible answer for some of the issues related to the scope of the do. [10]Where there is adequate culpability for an offence committed at an earlier time as well as the actus reus of the offence committed is caused at a later moment in time, the prior culpability shouldn’t be transferred to successive behaviour that is not morally equal to the previous culpability. [11]


[1] Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/8560553-for-something-to-be-a-crime-there-must-be-both#:~:text=Learn%20more)-,%E2%80%9CFor%20something%20to%20be%20a%20crime%20there%20must%20be%20both,a%20criminal%20state%20of%20mind.%E2%80%9D (last visited 11th August, 2022)

[2] JOHN E. STANNARD, STRETCHING OUT THE “ACTUS REUS”, Vol. 28/30 Irish Jurist 200, 200 (1993)

[3] Strictly legal, https://strictlylegal.in/actus-reus-and-mens-rea-two-elements-of-crime/#:~:text=Actus%20Reus%20refers%20to%20the,action%20to%20achieve%20some%20intention. (last visited 11th August, 2022)

[4] R. N. Gooderson, Similar Facts and Actus Reus, Vol. 17, No. 2 The Cambridge Law Journal 210, 212 (1959)

[5] INDIA CONST, INDIAN PENAL CODE, § 39

[6] R v White (John) [1910] 2 KB 124

[7] R v Quick, [1973] QB 910,

[8] R v Larsonneur, 149 LT 542

[9] R v Le Brun, [1992]

[10] G. R. Sullivan, Cause and the Contemporaneity of actus reus and Mens rea, Vol. 52, No. 3 The Cambridge Law Journal 487, 500 (1993)

[11] Ibid.

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