Coincidence (contemporaneity) rule

The contemporaneity rule is the coincidence of actus reus and mens rea.

In the vast majority of criminal offences there are two elements which need to be proven in order to establish criminal liability, the actus reus or guilty act and the appropriate level of mens rea or guilty mind. It is an established rule that these two elements must coincide. This is sometimes known as the contemporaneity rule meaning that the two elements must take place at the same time.

In most cases the question of coincidence will be a matter of common sense and probably not cause the prosecution or any jury too much difficulty. However the matter has been raised in a number of cases and as a result the courts can be seen to have adopted a flexible approach to the issue developing ways of finding coincidence of actus reus and mens rea when the acts take place over a period of time and when they form a chain of events.

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