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Smith, Hogan and Ormerod's Essentials of Criminal Law

Smith, Hogan and Ormerod's Essentials of Criminal Law (5th edn)

John Child and David Ormerod
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date: 02 December 2023

p. 402. Actus reuslocked

p. 402. Actus reuslocked

  • David OrmerodDavid OrmerodProfessor of Criminal Justice, University College London Deputy High Court Judge Barrister, Bencher of Middle Temple
  •  and John ChildJohn ChildProfessor of Criminal Law, Birmingham Law School Co-Director of the Birmingham Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing Co-Director of the Criminal Law Reform Now Network


This chapter provides an overview of actus reus, which refers to the ‘external elements’ of an offence. These external elements do not simply relate to D’s conduct. Rather, as we will see, the actus reus of an offence includes any offence elements outside the fault element (‘mens rea’) of the offence. Before discussing the elements that form the actus reus, this chapter considers the distinction between actus reus and mens rea. It then describes the three elements of actus reus: conduct, circumstances, and results. It also explains the categories of actus reus offences, omissions liability, and causation before concluding with sections that outline potential options for legal reform and a structure for analysing the actus reus of an offence when applying the law in a problem-type question. Relevant cases are highlighted throughout the chapter, with a brief summary of the main facts and judgments.

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