Explain ABH (Actual Bodily Harm) and GBH (Grievous Bodily

Explain what you think are the most important principles of
Criminal Law and why.

In this essay I shall talk about important principles of criminal
law. The statement “Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” literally translated
means “an act does not make the person guilty unless the mind is also guilty.
It is this statement among many others that make the foundation of our current
legal system. What this statement means is that a person is guilty if they are
proved to be blameworthy in both action and thought. This is the difference
between murder and manslaughter. An example of this could be the R v Fenton
case which would be a form of involuntary manslaughter. In this case, the
defendant threw some stones down a mineshaft causing a few miners to die. There
was no mens rea as the defendant had no intention of killing anyone however,
the actus reus was there. There are however, difficulties such as omission and
state of affairs which must be kept in mind.

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The ‘actus reus’ and ‘mens rea’ in criminal law are the
action and thought behind an offence. Guilt is usually not proven until both
are. The actus reus in criminal law are all parts of the crime excluding the
state of mind of the defendant. Particularly, actus reus consists of different
types of crimes: commission, omission and state of affairs. Commission can be
split into two types of crime: conduct and result. A conduct crime is one whereby
the conduct itself is illegal. An example of this could be lying to the court
of law under oath, hence committing perjury. Other examples could include theft,
rape or the possession of a firearm or illegal substance. A result crime is one
whereby the result of an action is illegal. A good example could be throwing a
rock. Although throwing a rock is not illegal, hitting someone with it would be
hence the result was a criminal offence (R v Fenton). However, to prove a
result crime guilty, causation usually must be established. Other examples of
such an offence could include assault, battery, ABH (Actual Bodily Harm) and
GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm).

Omission is a failure to act and there is usually no criminal
liability behind a person in not doing anything or refraining from doing anything
in a certain situation. For example, if a person sees another in danger, he is
not obliged to help them legally. However there are instances whereby someone
may be persecuted for not doing anything. These two mains reasons are statutory
duty and contractual duty. Statutory duty are such where a failure to abide by
the law incurs criminal liability such as not providing insurance details when
involved in a vehicular accident. Failure to abide to contractual duty will
result in legal consequences too. A case in 1902 (R v Pitwood 19 TLR 37) proved
so when the defendant was a railway worker employed to raise and lower the gate
at a level crossing. He left the barrier open and went for lunch but a train
later collided with a horse and cart resulting in the train driver being
killed. The defendant was liable for the death as it was his contractual duty
to close the gate. In state of affairs crimes the actus reus consists of ‘being’
rather than doing. For example, ‘being’ over the legal limit of alcohol whist in
charge of a vehicle (Duck v Peacock 1949 1 All ER 318) or ‘being’ an alien (R
v Larsonneur 1933 24 Cr App R74).