Strict liability

It is often said that no mens rea is needed for strict liability offences.

It is often said that no mens rea is needed for strict liability offences.  This is probably an over simplification.  A more complete answer would be that the prosecution does not have to prove the existence of mens rea for one or more of the elements of the actus reus of the offence.

Ordinarily the criminal law is concerned with blameworthiness.  There are various levels of mens rea or blameworthiness.  Some offences are more serious than others and as a general rule the more serious the offence the higher the level of mens rea required such as 'intention' or 'recklessness'.  This is related to the consequences of conviction and again as a general rule the more serious the offence – the greater the punishment.

In effect, it is possible to be convicted of a strict liability offence without any degree of fault.  The defendant may not have acted deliberately or in any way to bring about the state of affairs offence.  It may be enough that the situation has arisen.

Strict liability offences cover many aspects of day to day life and activities as a result they are too numerous to list but extend to such activities as driving and road traffic matters, licensing (food premises, sale of alcohol and entertainment) food safety and pollution.

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