Criminality of Intention - How to Adjudge Mens REA?
29 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 25, 2010
A crime may be committed by an individual or in collaboration with others. In case an individual commits a crime, there would be no difficulty in assessing his criminal guilt; he would be punished according to the nature of the offence committed. The difficulty arises when several persons are engaged in the commission of an offence and different roles are played by each of such individuals. One of them might be engaged in the actual task of commission, say murder, while the other might remain standing near the assailant to put a knife in his hand, and still another might have chalked out the plan and given assistance but stays away from the scene of occurrence throughout the commission of the act. In such cases, a distinction is drawn between the acts of each of such individuals according to their mode and degree of participation or involvement in the commission of the offence for ascertaining guilt and awarding punishment. Such persons may broadly be classified into principals and abettors. In a case where two or more persons are involved, either jointly or in group and it is not possible to apportion criminal guilt of each of the participants, all the participants are held jointly liable for the offence committed by any one or all the members of the group. This is based on the contention that the presence of the accomplice gives encouragement, prtection and support to the person actually engaged in the commission of an unlawful act.
The doctrine of joint liability is justified on the common sense principle that if two or more persons do an act conjointly, it is just the same as if each of them has done it individually. Since the purpose is common, the responsibility is joint. The man who actually strikes is no more liable than the man ready to place a knife in the hands of an assailant for the purpose.
Keywords: intention, crime, criminal, law, legal, prosecution, joint liability, accomplice, illegal, conspiracy, mens REA, actus reus
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