Fault is an essential element of criminal liability. It is a concept in criminal and civil law whereby the defendant is held responsible for doing something wrong. This can be through an act or omission and can be proven through the rules of causation. The implication of being found at fault is a criminal record whose consequences on the defendant personal life are serious. However, there are some types of behaviours such as Strict Liability offences which do not require fault but the defendant is still prosecuted.
Fault is established by a combination of Actus Reus, Mens Rea, Defences and Sentencing. The outcome of being charged with a criminal offence is based on whether the defendant is found to be at fault (guilty) as a result he is convicted and sentenced; or he is not at fault (not guilty) and is acquitted; or he is partially at fault which is where the charge is reduced to a lesser offence for example a murder charge is reduced to a manslaughter charge.
Firstly, to be at fault, the defendant must have the Actus Reus of the offence he is being charged with. Generally, the Actus Reus must be voluntary and deliberate and if involuntary, he is not at fault. For example, actions carried by reflex or through a spasm are involuntary and therefore the defendant is not at fault. On the other hand, failing to act when there is a duty to do so can lead to fault. The Prosecution must prove that there is a link between the defendant’s act and the end result in order to prove that he is a fault. Factual Causation and the De minimus Rule uses the ‘But For test’. It asks ‘But for the Defendant’s action would harm or loss of property have occurred?’ This is shown in R v White where without White poisoning his mother’s drink, she would have died anyway as a result he was held to not be at fault for her death and was not guilty.
Legal causation aims to find who is most blameworthy of harm or damage to property. It uses the operative and significant test to prove that the...