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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: 17 July 2024

p. 883. Mens realocked

p. 883. Mens realocked

  • 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 mens rea, loosely translated as ‘guilty mind’. Whereas the concept of actus reus focuses on the external elements of an offence, mens rea focuses on state of mind or fault. The mens rea of the offence describes the fault element with which D acted: D intended, believed, foresaw as a risk the proscribed element(s), and so on. The chapter first considers how offences differ in the role mens rea plays. For some offences, a mens rea element may be required in relation to each actus reus element; for other offences there are actus reus elements that do not have a corresponding mens rea and vice versa. The chapter moves on to discuss the legal meaning of central mens rea terms such as ‘intention’, ‘negligence’, ‘dishonesty’, and ‘recklessness’. Finally, it outlines reform debates, and a structure for analysing the mens rea of an offence when applying the law in a problem-type question. Relevant cases are highlighted throughout the chapter.

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