UK Accounting Glossary
Crimes for Which Mens Rea Need Not Be Proved
The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in terms of Edward Coke’s statement ‘actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea’ which means that ‘the act does not make a person guilty unless their mind is also guilty. There must be an actus reus accompanied by some level of mens rea to constitute the crime with which the defendant is charged. However, the exceptions to this standard are strict liability crimes.
In the case of Gammon (Hong Kong) Ltd v AG  the court outlined four guidelines for other courts to use to decide whether or not the crime in question is a strict liability crime:
This is typically a crime where no moral issue is involved and the maximum penalty is usually small. In Sweet v Parsley  Lord Reid stated that a crime to which a social stigma is attached should need mens rea to be proved.
This involves issues such as public safety and is in place to force people to take extra precautions against committing the act. This covers behaviour which involves danger to the public but which would not usually carry the same kind of social stigma as a crime like murder or theft. Such offences are similar to regulatory offences but they may carry severe maximum penalties.
A statute may be interpreted as creating a strict liability offence. There is no definitive example of what form the words must take but certain words, such as ‘cause’ and ‘possession’, have been consistently interpreted by the courts as resulting in strict liability crimes.
Strict liability is often imposed for offences which carry a small maximum penalty. The higher the maximum penalty, the less likely it is that the courts will impose strict liability. However, the penalties can sometimes be high.
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Definitions for Strict Liability are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:
This glossary post was last updated: 5th March 2020.