Explain the concept of strict liability

It is often said that no mens rea is needed for strict liability offences. This is probably an over simplification.

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The essay contains a definition of strict liability offences and then goes on to refer to the cases of Prince 1875 and Section 5 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861; B (a minor) v DPP 2000; Sweet v Parsley 1970 and the Dangerous Drugs Act 1965.

The common law presumption of the need for mens rea is discussed as well as the distinction between regulatory offences and 'truly criminal acts' made by Lord Reid in Sweet v Parsley.

The replacement of the Dangerous Drugs Act by the Misuse of Drugs Act is also covered.

Examples of cases which demonstrate the principles and benefits of strict liability include Callow v Tillstone 1900; Smedleys v Breed 1974 and Alphacell v Woodward1972.

Absolute liability offences are also mentioned and illustrated by the cases of Larsonneur 1933 and Winzar v Chief Constable of Kent 1983.

The essay closes by mentioning 'due diligence' or 'no negligence' defences and the case of London Borough of Harrow v Shah and Shah 2000.


(Word count 1620)

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