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Discuss Frank’s criminal liability for the death of Andrew (do not discuss the possibility of self-defence).


According to the facts given, the case beforehand is a criminal case since there has been death occasioned a result of Frank’s acts. Therefore, this issue will be handled under the criminal justice system and principles that appertaining thereto.

Generally, in criminal law, there are three elements that ought to be established in proving criminal liability of an accused. These are the guilty mind, the criminal act committed and the existence of the two at the time of commission. The guilty mind is referred to as mens rea while the offense committed is called actus reus. It is equally important to note that the prosecution is required by the court to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt that the accused intentionally committed the said offense. Prove of liability in criminal cases is very strict and an individual would not be convicted based on glimpse evidence tendered by the prosecution.

In the set of facts provided herein, there are set of issues that would come up during the trial that I have discussed hereunder. It would be important for the prosecution to link the facts to the issue that will be coming up during the cause of the trial. The prosecution would have to prove to the court that they have a good case based on the issues coming up during the trial and concrete evidence in support of the issues.

For every issue, there ought to be a defined law that prohibits or makes that act criminal. An individual cannot be tried based on the law that does not exist. Therefore it is not enough for issues to be identified since a law relevant to such an issue ought to be attributed.

Among the issues that are up for determination in this instance include whether this offense committed was premeditated. In other words, this is to mean the court will try to establish whether there is sequence of events that were planned that eventually led to the death of Andrew. The other issue that the court will certainly look into in relation to mens rea is the level of intoxication, this is whether it contributed to the crime committed or not. Such a defense is always relied on by the defense team.

The court will have a task of establishing whether the death was caused by Frank’s action of hitting Andrew’s head with a chair. It is a key fact to be established whether Frank’s action directly led to the death of Andrew. Whether the death was voluntarily or involuntarily caused by the accused is also an issue to be dealt with by the court.

Finally, the court would be tasked to establish whether the act committed was voluntary or involuntary. An involuntary act will not hold a person be criminally responsible. A voluntary act would, however, be criminally implicated on the accused person.

The maxim actus non facit reum nisi men sit rea guides the court in every criminal case. The meaning of this maxim is that an act committed does not make a man guilty unless his mind is guilty as well.  Generally, both elements must exist in order for a criminal liability to be established, this is to mean that the offense committed ought to have been planned and executed by the accused person. This principle was for instance applied by the courts in Haughton v Smith, on Appeal from Regina v Smith. For mens rea, there has to be a guilty mind. The accused at the time of the commission of the offense knew what he was doing and he in fact intended to cause that which he caused. The accused in this instance planned to commit a forbidden act. The prosecution should be able to prove a guilty mind in order for criminal liability to be implicated.

Rule of law

Moreover, it is not enough for an offense to have been committed. The courts have been much concerned with the series of events that eventually led to the death of the victim. A conviction cannot be pronounced solely on the fact that the accused actually committed that crime. The act or omission of it ought to have been voluntary. If the act that led to commission of the crime was involuntary, there would be no criminal liability attributed. The burden of proof on involuntariness lies on the defense team since it is generally presumed that the act was voluntary.

For a criminal liability to be attributed to the accused, it ought to be proven whether his acts actually caused the crime that is forbidden under the law. There ought to be a direct nexus between the crime committed and the person who committed that criminal act. A failure to prove this would mean that the accused is not criminally liable. The burden of proof lies on the prosecution in establishing that the offense was directly caused by the accused person. An argument that the death of the accused was contributed by the accused is insufficient. Criminal law requires that accused ought to have solely caused the demise of the victim.

In some instances it is possible for the causation to be insufficiently linked to the accused. However, the courts will look at the possibility of a strong factual link that led to the death or otherwise of the victim. Some scholars have advocated for the consideration of the circumstance in each case in relation to each subject matter.

Intoxication generally is not a defense in criminal liability. However, the subject of intoxication comes about in establishing mens rea. Where a person is intoxicated to the point of not forming mens rea, a criminal liability may not be implicated since they generally could not have known what they were doing or the anticipated consequences of their acts. There are two types of intoxication in this instance; voluntary and involuntary intoxication. For voluntary intoxication which is relevant in this case, it is when an individual intoxicates himself to the level of not forming mens rea.

First, it is important to establish whether there was mens rea in this instance. For Frank to be held liable a criminal intention ought to be proven by the prosecution. Frank and Andrew had been friends all along from High School. The two friends did not know that such an incidence would arise. In other words Frank did not plan to kill his friend or to harm him in any manner. In this instance, therefore, it is clear from the facts that there is no criminal intention that existed prior to the commission of the aforesaid crime.

For mens rea to be sufficiently proven, the court looks at the events which preceded the death. This would answer the question of intention that needs to be proven in mens rea. From the facts given, there is no mention of hatred or any sought of bitterness between the two friends which eventually led to the death of the accused.

Application of the rule of law

The second issue to be addressed by the courts relates to actus reus. This is the actual criminal act committed by the accused person which is an offense. To prove actus reus, the prosecution has to show a direct link between the accused and the offense committed. In this instance, Frank’s action of hitting Andrew’s head did not directly cause his death, this is as per the medical report available. It was Andrew who hit his head on the floor and he subsequently caused his own death. Frank’s actions led to him sprawling on the bar which in this case did not directly cause the death of Andrew.

The prosecution in this matter will face an enormous task of proving that Frank’s actions led to the death of Andrew. Some scholars have advocated for an in-depth analysis which perhaps is applicable in this instance. The prosecution would likely rely much on this principle. In this matter there is a strong factual link that links Frank to the death of Andrew. The prosecution would likely demonstrate to the court that after hitting Andrew’s head with a chair, Andrew without his own fault or intention hit the floor with his head hence leading to his death. It is however the task of the court to make the right decision based on the available evidence. Such evidence however ought to be beyond any reasonable doubt.

Voluntariness is a factor to be considered in this case. The acts of hitting Andrew with a chair on his head need to be established, that is whether it was voluntarily intended to cause his death. Involuntary acts would not hold a person criminally responsible. As read from the facts, it is clear that what transpired was involuntary. The sequence of events that led to the death of Andrew was spontaneous and unplanned and the consequence was never intended or contemplated. However, some could argue that the acts of Frank were intentional and voluntarily meant to cause harm or injury to the deceased. The court would however make a ruling based on the available evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defense.

Generally, intoxication, in this case, is not a defense to criminal liability. Here, the defense team might place reliance partly under the influence of drinks in mitigation. There is voluntary intoxication in this case. In this instance, Frank who is the accused person had taken drinks but he says that the intoxication did not affect is mind, and he, in fact, knew what he was doing. Intoxication only comes into play when establishing the presence of a mens rea. Frank in this instance would be disadvantaged since the intoxication does not alleviate his criminal intent.

For proof of criminal liability to suffice, mens rea and actus reus should both be proven to have existed. The presence of only one would not be a sufficient proof for implication of a criminal liability. In this case, mens rea, which is the criminal intent, did not exist per se. The accused, did not intend to commit the offense of murder herein. It is only an argument that erupted that spontaneously caused the two to fight and eventually death of Andrew. Actus reus, which is the offense committed is also not directly linked to the acts of Frank. The absence of the one element, in this case, would likely deal a blow to the prosecution case.


The standard of proof of a criminal liability is high in criminal cases. The case has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. A failure by the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt would result to acquittal.

There are key issues in this case that would determine the final decision of the case. The first issue is whether Frank’s acts directly led to the death of Andrew. The second issue concerns the mens rea and actus reus; that is whether both existed at the time of the commission of the offense. The court will also try the issue of voluntariness in the commission of the criminal act.

It is an enormous task for the prosecution to prove these issues beyond reasonable doubt. The first reason is because the medical report attributes the death of Andrew to the act of hitting the floor and not Frank’s acts of hitting the accused with the chair. It is also necessary for both mens rea and actus reus to exist at the time of the commission of the offense. The criminal intent, in this case, is missing because the events prior to the death of Andrew do not point out on a plan or an intention to kill. On the other hand actus reus, which is the actual commission of the offense is difficult to establish. The link between the act committed and Frank’s does not directly link him to the offense committed as per the medical report available.

It is, therefore, most likely that Frank will be charged for manslaughter since some of the elements necessary for the charge of murder are absent, for instance, mens rea. However, it is up to the sitting judge to evaluate the available evidence presented by both parties and thereafter make a final determination.


Haughton v Smith [1975] AC 476, [1973] 3 All ER 1109, [1974] 3 W.L.R. 1

R v Cato (1976) 62 Cr App R 41 Court of Appeal

Regina v Smith (Roger): Hl 21 Nov 1973


Allen Michael Textbook on criminal law (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Ambos Kai, and Stefanie Bock ‘Individual criminal responsibility’ (2015)

Ashworth Andrew, and Jeremy Horder Principles of criminal law (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Bennett Elizabeth, ‘Neuroscience and Criminal Law: Have We Been Getting It Wrong for Centuries and Where Do We Go from Here’ (2016) 85 Fordham L. Rev 437

Dimock Susan, ‘What are intoxicated offenders responsible for? The “intoxication defense” re-examined’ (2011) 5 (1) Criminal Law and Philosophy 1-20

Dressler Joshua Black Letter Outline on Criminal Law (West Academic, 2015)

Farahany Nita, ‘Neuroscience and behavioral genetics in US criminal law: an empirical analysis’ (2016) 2 (3) Journal of Law and the Biosciences 485-509

Great Britain, Law Commission, Intoxication and criminal liability Vol. 7526, The Stationery Office, 2009

Hall Jerome, General principles of criminal law (The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., 2010)

Lanham D, ‘Principles of causation in criminal law’, Chapter 10 in ‘Causation in law and medicine’, Freckleton I. And Mendelson D. (Ed) 2002 Dartmouth Publishing Company, Aldershot England

Seear Kate, and Suzanne Fraser, ‘The addict as victim: Producing the ‘problem’of addiction in Australian victims of crime compensation laws’ (2014) 25 (5) International Journal of Drug Policy 826-835

Stewart Hamish, ‘The right to be presumed innocent’ (2014) 8 (2) Criminal Law and Philosophy 407-420

Yaffe Gideon, ‘The voluntary act requirement’ (2012) The Routledge companion to philosophy of law 173-190

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