Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Action and Value in Criminal Law$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Stephen Shute, John Gardner, and Jeremy Horder

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198258063

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198258063.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 April 2021

Should the Criminal Law Abandon the Actus Reus-Mens Rea Distinction?

Should the Criminal Law Abandon the Actus Reus-Mens Rea Distinction?

(p.187) Should the Criminal Law Abandon the Actus Reus-Mens Rea Distinction?
Action and Value in Criminal Law


Oxford University Press

Many criminal lawyers, judges, and professors see the distinction between actus reus and mens rea as one of the more basic of criminal law. Along with the offence-defence distinction, it helps us organize the way we conceptualize and analyse liability. It is said to be ‘the corner-stone of discussion on the nature of criminal liability’. And, the concepts of actus reus and mens rea have ‘justified themselves by their usefulness’. This chapter argues that this most basic organizing distinction is not coherent. Rather than being useful to criminal-law theory, it is harmful because it creates ambiguity in discourse and hides important doctrinal differences of which criminal law should take account. It suggests that we abandon the distinction in favour of other conceptualizations.

Keywords:   actus reus, mens rea, criminal law, liability

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .