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1. n illegal (or unlawful) act.

î (criminal law) an act punishable by law; usually considered an evil act; "a
long record of crimes"
3. prime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority
(via mechanisms such as legal systems) can ultimately prescribe a
conviction. Individual human societies may each define crime and crimes
differently. ...
4.  specific act committed in violation of the law; The practice or habit of
committing crimes

The general basis for imposing liability in criminal law is that the defendant must
be proved to have committed a guilty act whilst having had a guilty state of mind.

The physical elements are collectively called the actusreus and the accompanied
mental state is called the mensrea.

It is the fundamental duty of the prosecution to prove both of these elements of

the offence to the satisfaction of the judge or jury beyond reasonable doubt. In
the absence of such proof the defendant will be acquitted.

pan a person be held criminally responsible for a failure to act? The general rule
is that there can be no liability for failing to act, unless at the time of the failure to
act the defendant was under a legal duty to take positive action:

n actusreus consists of more than just an act. It also consists of whatever
circumstances and consequences are recognised for liability for the offence in
question - in other words all the elements of an offence other than the mental

primes can be divided into two categories:

x ÿ , there are conduct crimes where the actusreus is the prohibited
conduct itself. For example, the actusreus of the offence of dangerous
driving is simply "driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or
other public place" (s2 Road Traffic ct 1988). No harm or consequence
of that dangerous driving need be established.
x The type are known as result crimes where the actusreus of the
offence requires proof that the conduct caused a prohibited result or
consequence. For example, the actusreus of the offence of criminal
damage is that property belonging to another must be destroyed or
damaged (s1(1) priminal Damage ct 1971).

Actusreus: the prohibited act.

For example, in panada's p  p, at s. 322, the 

 of theft is defined
as follows:
"Every one commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or
fraudulently and without colour of right conver ts to his use or to the use of
another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent
() to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it, or a person who has a
special property or interest in it, of the thing or of his property or int erest in it;
() to pledge it or deposit it as security;
( ) to part with it under a condition with respect to its return that the person
who parts with it may be unable to perform; or
() to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be restored in the condition in
which it was at the time it was taken or converted."
Usually, but not always, the actusreus is defined as an act but an omission can
constitute one as well, such as at s. 215, failing "to provide necessaries of life for
a child under the age of sixteen years".
During the normal course of a criminal trial, a prosecutor proves 

and   beyond a reasonable doubt and barring a successful defence,
conviction follows.
The term was judicially considered in R v Théroux 1993 2 SpR 5 where Justice
McLachlin, in reference to the 
 of fraud:
"The offence has two elements: dishonest act and deprivation. The dishonest act
is established by proof of deceit, falsehood or 'other fraudulent means'. The the
element of deprivation is established by proof of detriment, prejudice, or risk of
prejudice to the economic interests of the victim, caused by the dishonest act."

Vensrea: Latin for "guilty mind"; guilty knowledge or intention to commit a
prohibited act.

lso: "a particular state of mind such as the intent to cause, or some foresight of,
the results of the act or the state of affairs." (    [1994] 3 SpR 63 at
para. 74)
Many serious crimes require the proof of ensrea before a person can be
In other words, the prosecution must prove not only that the accused committed
the offence (
 ) but that he (or she) did it knowing that it was prohibited;
that their act (or omission) was done with an intent to commit the crime.
 maxim rich in tradition and well known to law students is actus non facitreum,
nisi mens sit rea or "a person cannot be convicted and punished in a proceeding
of a criminal nature unless it can be shown that he had a guilty mind".
Not all offences require proof of ensrea such as many statutory or regulatory

The accused's conduct must be "voluntary" or "freely willed" if he is to incur
liability. It may be involuntary for a variety of reasons:

utomatism occurs where the defendant performs a physical act but is unaware
of what he is doing, or is not in control of his actions, because of some external

 ÿ G 
Sometimes people can respond to something with a spontaneous reflex action
over which they have no control. lthough slightly different, this is sometimes
classed as a form of automatism.

The conduct may be involuntary in that it is physically forced by someone else, in
which case there will be no actusreus.


Liability for failing to act will be imposed where the defendant can be shown to
have been under a statutory duty to take positive action.
 leading example of such a case is provided by the phildren and Young Persons
ct 1933, which creates the offence of wilfully neglecting a child. Hence by
simply failing to provide food for the child, or failing to obtain appropriate
medical care, a parent could be held criminally liable for any harm that
results. nother example is the Road Traffic ct 1988 which creates the offences
of failing to provide a specimen when required to do so and failing to g ive a
correct name and address when required to do so. See also:
x âreener v DPP (1996) The Times, Feb 15 1996.


Where a person is under a positive duty to act because of his obligations under a
contract, his failure to perform the contractual duty in question can form the
basis of criminal liability. See:
x R v Pittwood (1902) 19 TLR 37.


 person in a public office may be under a public duty to care for others.


There is a common law duty of care where there is a relationship of reliance
between defendant and victim. Thus if someone voluntarily assumes
responsibility for another person then they also assume the positive duty to act
for the general welfare of that person and may be liable for omissions which
prove fatal.
If the defendant accidentally commits an act that causes harm, and subsequently
becomes aware of the danger he has created, there arises a duty to act
reasonably to avert that danger.

When the definition of an actusreus requires the occurrence of certain
consequences, the prosecution must prove that it was the defendant's conduct
which caused those consequences to occur.
For example, in murder the prosecution must prove that the victim died; in
section 18 of the offences gainst the Person ct 1861 that the victim was
wounded or caused grievous bodily harm; and in criminal damage that the
property was destroyed or damaged.

x (a) pausation in Fact, for which the "But For" Test is used. See:
u R v White [1910] 2 KB 124.
x (b) pausation in Law, for which, for example in homicide cases, the
defendant's act must be the "operating and substantial cause of death".