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Criminal LawText, Cases, and Materials

Criminal Law: Text, Cases, and Materials (10th edn)

Jonathan Herring
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date: 03 June 2023

p. 1273. Mens Rea: The Mental Elementlocked

p. 1273. Mens Rea: The Mental Elementlocked

  • Jonathan HerringJonathan HerringProfessor of Law, Exeter College, Oxford


Mens rea is the legal term used to describe the element of a criminal offence that relates to the defendant’s mental state. Different crimes have different mentes reae: some require intention, others recklessness, negligence, or knowledge. Some crimes do not require proof of any mental state of the defendant. It has often been suggested that mens rea plays the crucial role of ensuring that only blameworthy defendants are punished for their crimes; however, a defendant’s blameworthiness or state of mind is only part of the picture. This chapter considers the following concepts that are used throughout criminal law: (a) intention; (b) recklessness; (c) negligence; and (d) knowledge.

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