For strict liability offences, proof of any fault or knowledge on the part of the defendant is not necessary. The basic assumptions of strict liability was outlined in Albert Blake, R v EWCA Crim 729, the court of appeal referred to the previous case of Gammon Ltd v Attorney- General for Hong Kong 2 All ER 503. Lord Scarman set out the factors that ought to be considered before imposition of any strict liability and there was consideration from the previous case of Sweet v Parsley decided by the House of Lords.
The concept of strict liability is very helpful in criminal law, tort and corporations law. Under criminal law, the defendant is not necessitated to proof mens rea in accordance with the actus reus. Other elements like awareness, intention to act and carelessness which relate to the offence may be needed. The liability is termed as strict since the defendant will still be convicted although there ignorance necessitated them to commit the act. Hence the defendant may not be culpable by any chance.
Strict liability is applied in order to impact social behavior in cases where a person is affected by some small level of stigma upon being convicted or where the society wants to avoid harm and wishes to capitalize on the decreasing value of the offence (Yasser, 1985, p. 16). The application of strict liability may not be fare especially to individual cases. An example of such a case is in Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Storkwain 2 ALL ER 636, where a pharmacist gave drugs to a patient who had obtained prescription illegally through forgery.
Although even the House of Lords concurred with fact that the pharmacist was not to blame, he was still charged. The reason for the charge being that abuse of drugs mounted to a serious social evil and there was need for ensuring that the pharmacist were extra careful when supplying drugs. Similarly, incase of imputation of liability or associated to others inform of corporate liability or vicarious liability the end product of the imputation will be strict liability. In some cases the mens rea will be imputed to the culprit and the culprit assumed to be the actual offender.
In common law the principle is that crimes need evidence of mens rea with exception of cases of criminal contempt of court, public nuisance and blasphemous libel. Incase of occurrence of liability under a statute, there has been great inconsistencies with various rules of formation in statutory definition producing different findings of the will of parliament. Although, in Sweet v parsley ac 132, Lord Reid made the following recommendations for all criminal cases with the exception of quasi-criminal (Yasser, 1985, p. 9).
1. Incase a section does not mention mens rea it is assumed that, in order to apply to the will of parliament, words in relation to mens rea should be incorporated. 2. It is a universal rule that where a penal provision gives the choice of two interpretations then the one chosen should be the most applicable to the accused. 3. Just because other sections of the Act necessitate the need for mens rea, it is not full justification that absence of mens rea leads to an absolute offence.
There is need for external evidence outside the act and consideration of all factors, in order to achieve the main aim of the parliament. There is a strong belief that parliament wanted the mens rea to be incorporated in every section that results to an offence where those convicted are affected with social stigma and punishment administered is seen to be a total criminal offence. Lord Scarman chose to ignore the presumptions on grounds that it posed a danger on public safety.
Therefore, statutes that relates to matters like pollution and drugs which have bad effect have been interpreted as imputing strict liability. A clear example of situations where strict liability has been described as “forming” circumstances which were the direct consequences of the direct actions of the third party although the defendant had an obligation of ensuring that it did not occur. Terms like “with knowledge” or “from ones discretion” or words with that same meaning are found in the section, then the presumption is that parliament wanted a mens rea imputed in that section (Olson, 1988, p. 1).
Although, terms having the meaning that a mens rea are found in some sections excluding some implies that parliament willfully did not intend including a mens rea in those sections that were not mentioned. Lord Hutton in B (minor) v DPP (2000) 1 AER 833, laid the current stand at p855: the challenge is not because it is fare implication that the statute does not recognize mens rea as the key requirement of a crime but if it is a basic implication.
Lord Nicholls talked of basic (necessary) implication as that implication that is necessitates one to be very clear. Necessary implication can be traced from the language applied, the nature of the crime, the mischief intended to be avoided and any other case that may help in finding what intention is correctly attributable to parliament when making an offence (Yasser, 1925, p. 42). Apart from the statutory provision being reviewed, necessary implication can be made from the principles controlling the provisions to be described from other provisions.
Therefore, the courts must consider the whole reason of the statute. Incase the reason is to incorporate quasi-criminal offences, strict liability will be welcomed to provide prompt penalties to discourage future offenders who don’t comply e. g. a common penalty for all parking offences. Although, if the policy issues affected are of proper significance and the punishment very severe, then the challenge should be if following a mens rea requirement will overpower parliaments reason for forming a certain offence, i. . incase the defendant easily evades liability by pleading ignorance, this would not consider the “mischief” that parliament was trying to prevent.
Section 5 of the Sexual Offence Act 2003 clearly provides a strict liability offence. Any objections concerning the issue of strict liability were clearly outlined by the House of Lords. The appellant pleaded to a charge of rape of a child below 13 contrary to the stipulations of the Sexual Offence Act 2003.
When the offence was created the appellant was 15, the complainant had given in to intercourse and she had informed him that she was 15. The facts presented by the appellant; that she was 15 at the time and the complainant gave in for intercourse and she had disclosed that she was 15. Under the law of tort, strict liability is liability imposed on someone without proof of any fault. What the plaintiff is required to do, is to provide evidence of the actual occurrence of the tort and the defendant is held liable.
The fact that the defendant applied all the necessary precausions does not hold any water. Strict liability is usually imposed upon those involved in ventures that pose a potential danger (Olson, 1988, p. 27). Strict liability is different from absolute liability. For absolute liability, actus reus is needed. But for strict liability proof of the mens rea is not necessary. Although the plaintiff is not required to provide evidence of fault, the defendant can lodge a defense of lack of fault. A clear case of strict liability is a case of a lion rehabilitation center.
Despite the fact that a lion is very strong, the owner of the rehabilitation center is still liable for any loss or other form of damage caused by the lion if it escapes (Olson, 1988, p. 34). Another case is where a contractor sub-contracts his contract to a contractor who lacks a valid insurance. The contractor will still be liable for any damage caused by the sub-contractor. The law encourages potential defendants to take extra caution there by avoiding loss caused by negligence. Strict liability is applied where a condition is viewed to be essentially dangerous.