Criminallaw

Key Issues

The actus reus of an offence can be satisfied by:

  • a positive willed act;
  • an omission where a duty is imposed;
  • a set of circumstances or state of affairs; or
  • the consequence or result.

Concurrence of actus reus and mens rea can be achieved by:

  • continuing offences;
  • the one-transaction approach; or
  • causation.

Common Pitfalls

  • It is important to determine the actus reus for any particular offence by reading the statutory provision.
  • Also look at the definition section (s 2) of the Crimes Act 1961.

Question 1

Hazel and her partner Lawrence were having an argument. At the time, Lawrence was holding the couple’s seven-month-old son, Jackson. Lawrence swore at Hazel, causing Hazel to push Lawrence. Lawrence slipped and fell to the ground, still holding Jackson. Jackson suffered a minor graze on his arm. Hazel was charged with common assault in relation to Jackson under s 9 of the Summary Offences Act 1981. Section 9 reads as follows:

Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding [$4000] who assaults any other person.

Has Hazel assaulted Jackson?

Answer Plan

You will need to consider the following in your answer:

  • what the actus reus of the charge is;
  • what type of actus reus this is; and
  • whether Hazel committed the actus reus of the charge.

Question 2

Rita is charged with dangerous driving pursuant to s 35(1)(b) of the Land Transport Act 1998. It is alleged that she failed to stop at a compulsory stop sign. Rita says that she slowed down significantly and looked to make sure that no traffic was coming before proceeding, but she admits that she did not come to a complete stop. Section 35(1)(b) of the Land Transport Act 1998 is headed “Contravention of section 7, or section 22 where no injury or death involved”, and provides as follows:

(1) A person commits an offence if the person — …

(b) Drives or causes a motor vehicle to be driven on a road at a speed or in a manner which, having regard to all the circumstances, is or might be dangerous to the public or to a person.

Has Rita committed the actus reus of dangerous driving?

Answer Plan

You will need to consider the following in your answer:

  • what the actus reus of a charge under s 35(1)(b) is;
  • what type of actus reus this is; and
  • whether Rita breached s 35(1)(b).

 

For the full sample answers and more see Midson Questions and Answers: Criminal (LexisNexis, Wellington) 2014.

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