By Jonathan Herring
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Additional resources for Criminal law : the basics
These can be called crimes of partial strict liability. An example of a strict liability oﬀence would be speeding. A person will be guilty of the oﬀence of driving in excess of the speed BASIC CONCEPTS IN CRIMINAL LAW limit even if they were not aware of the speed limit or the speed they were travelling at. The example of speeding is a good example of why strict liability oﬀences are necessary. First, it would be impossible for the prosecution to demonstrate in speeding cases that the driver knew what speed they were travelling at.
The House of Lords thought that not possible, because at the time he stabbed the girlfriend intending to harm her the foetus was not yet born and so was not a person. There was, in other words, no person to transfer the intent to. However, the House of Lords held that the defendant had committed constructive manslaughter. He had done an unlawful act (the stabbing of the girlfriend); it was dangerous (it harmed the girlfriend) and it caused the death of a person (the baby born alive). The fact that the unlawful and dangerous act was aimed at another person apart from the person who died did not prevent the oﬀence being proved.
The defence is available only if the mother has killed her own child, under the age of twelve months. The defence was created by the Infanticide Act 1938. The age of the statute is reﬂected in the language used. It has to be shown that ‘the balance of her mind was disturbed by reason of her not having fully recovered from the eﬀect of giving birth to the child’ or by reason of the ‘eﬀects of lacerations consequential upon the birth’. The defence has been criticised because it appears to see the mental problems some women have following birth as resulting from the birth itself.
Criminal law : the basics by Jonathan Herring