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Strict Liability - Essay Example

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Summary to essay on topic "Strict Liability"
Throughout the web of the English criminal law one golden thread is always to be seen, that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner's guilt subject to .the defence of insanity and subject also to any statutory exception.
[] the more serious the crime and the greater the public interest in securing convictions of the guilty, the more important do constitutional protections of the accused become…
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Download file "Strict Liability" to see previous pages... However both at common law and through Statute there are crimes of strict liability and vicarious liability. Crimes of strict liability are those where intention (be it mens rea and/or negligence) need not be proved in respect of one or more of the elements of the actus reus of an offence. The prosecution only has to prove that the accused committed the actus reus.
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Crimes of vicarious liability are those whereby the accused neither did the act nor had the intention but is held liable due to his relationship with the actual perpetrator. The development of strict and vicarious liability offences seems to be historical; a reaction to the plethora of regulatory sanctions and poorly drafted legislation which did not mention malice, intent, knowledge or will.
It might appear that 'state of affairs' offences, such as crimes of strict liability are exceptions in English law. These are offences where either the legal or the evidential burden of proof falls on the defence. However, Ashworth and Blake claimed in their research that up to 40% of trials in the Crown Court required the defendant to prove either a statutory defence or disprove at least one element of the offence and that over 123 serious criminal offences had an element of strict liability. Most of these offences are regulatory, pertaining to food, drugs, health, alcohol, factories, pollution and other public health matters, and are mala prohibita rather than mal in se. They argued that this has made significant inroads on the presumption of innocence.
The prosecution does not always have to establish that the actus reus was voluntary. So for example in Callow v Tillstone [1900] a butcher was held liable for exposing unsound meat for sale even though the carcass had been certified as fit for human consumption by a vet.
A crime may have a mixture of strict liability and mens rea/negligence as to the elements of the actus reus. Hence in R v Prince [1875] the accused was convicted of taking an unmarried girl under the age of 16 out of her father's possession as knowledge that the girl was under 16 was not required for conviction. It was sufficient that he knew she was in her father's possession. At common law there is a presumption that mens rea is required to establish guilt. One remaining controversial area is that of the common law offence of Blasphemy where there is still some confusion. Lord Denning had said during a speech in 1949 that the blasphemy laws belonged in the past:
[...] it was thought that a denial of Christianity was liable to shake the fabric of society, which was itself founded upon Christian religion. There is no such danger to society now and the offence of blasphemy is a dead letter.

In 1979 morality crusader Mary Whitehouse successfully sued Gay News and its editor for publishing a poem which described a purported affair between a male soldier and Jesus Christ and necrophilic acts with his corpse: Whitehouse v Gay News Ltd [1979]. In 1990 it was held that blasphemy laws only applied to ...Download file "Strict Liability" to see next pagesRead More
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