The linked with the Islamic extremist group, Al-Qaeda, carried

The Actus Reus of
crime is quite simply described as the action of committing a crime (), however
where criminal law becomes more complex, is when involving the Mens Rea of a
crime, or in other words, a guilty state of mind (). It is a necessity that the
prosecution establishes that the defendant executed the ‘Actus Reus’ while in a
specific mental state. The Mens Rea of a crime explores the offender’s state of
mind in order for them to be legally responsible for the crime. There are four
mental states, which either collectively or separately have the ability to
create the required mens rea for a criminal offence. These elements are
intention, recklessness, gross negligence, and transferred malice, two of which
(intention and recklessness) we will be analysing in detail during this essay


Direct intent constitutes the defendant desiring the
consequences of the offence they committed, and it is his or her intention to
achieve and attain those consequences. A clear example of direct intent would
be September 11th, 2001, the day 19 militants linked with the
Islamic extremist group, Al-Qaeda, carried out suicide attacks against the
U.S., most notably killing thousands of people when deliberately crashing into
the twin towers (). This was an act with intention of harm, working with a
guilty mind from the very beginning, clearly demonstrating Actus Reus and Mens

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A further example of a case involving the question of intent
is the Hyam vs DPP case of 1995, however in this case, deciphering whether the
intention is direct or oblique is more complex. In this scenario, the
defendant, so as to scare Mrs Booth, her competitor for the affections of Mr X,
pushed burning newspaper into the letterbox of Mrs Booth’s house. Consequently,
this resulted in two of her children dying. The defendant claimed that she had
no intention of murdering anyone, but had still foreseen serious bodily harm or
even death as an extremely likely consequence of her actions (). Despite Lord
Hailsham LC affirming that he did not believe foresight of a high degree of
possibility to be the equivalent of intention, and stating that it is not
foresight but rather intention that establishes the state of mind in murder,
the House of Lords (by a 3-2 majority) considered the defendant’s foresight and
knowledge of the high probability of death or grievous bodily harms was
sufficient mens rea for murder (). This is an example of oblique intent, where the defendant’s direct
intent was to scare Mrs Booth, yet her indirect or oblique intent was the
murder of two children ().


The Woollin case of
1999 remains the principal example employed when juries and courts are looking
at oblique intention, as Professor Alan W. Norrie stated following the case, ‘Woollin
constitutes the last word on the indirect intention for murder’ (and page
In this incident, Woollin loses temper with his
3-month old son, picks him up, throws him on the floor, the child suffers severe
head injuries and consequently dies. Woollin says it was not his intention or
desire to hurt or kill his child, It is almost a certainty and it is
undoubtedly common-sense that if you throw your small child on the floor, you
know that they are at least going to be severely harmed, so even though he says he did not want to hurt
the child, he could have foreseen it, resulting in
another case of indirect intention (). In order to infer
indirect intention, the offender must be subject to the ‘virtual certainty’
test, which should prove two things. Firstly, objectively, the consequences of
the defendant’s actions would be virtually certain to occur and secondly, subjectively,
the defendant can foresee that the result would be virtually certain to happen


There is also a test of recklessness. To be considered reckless, one has
to take an unjustified risk and foresee that they are taking an unjustified,
reckless risk (). The court decided that this was a subjective test in the case
of R vs. G. In this case, two boys, aged 11 and 12, went camping without the
permission of their parents. Whilst camping, they decided that as they were
cold, they would set fire to some newspaper. Subsequently, this newspaper set
fire to a wheelie bin, which then set fire to the shop they were camping
behind. The result was 1 million pounds worth of damage and they were convicted of arson (). However, the court says the key test is
to see whether the young boys were aware of what kind of damage setting the
newspaper would have had. The verdict was that they were not aware and
therefore, the children were found not guilty ().


This case brought rise to subjective recklessness and abolished the
objective recklessness test previously established under R v Caldwell. Lord
Bingham of the House of Lords saw the requirement to alter Lord Diplock’s definition
so as allow for the defence of infancy, which includes the notion of “mischievous
discretion” (). This rule necessitates the court to deliberate the degree to
which children of eight years of more are capable of understanding the
difference between right and wrong. The Diplock test of obviousness may have functioned unfairly for the 11 and 12-year old
boys if they were held to the same criterion as rational adults ().


In conclusion, courts
and juries in the current CJS may infer that a consequence is intended, though
it is not desired, when the consequence is a virtually certain result of the
act and when the accused knows that it is a virtually certain consequence (). The
concept of Mens Rea, especially those elements of intention and recklessness,
has ignited numerous conflicting views and discussions, and is a law that will
most likely be altered in the future as new cases arise.