In Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

, concurrence (also contemporaneity or simultaneity) is the apparent need to prove the simultaneous occurrence of both actus reus
Actus reus
Actus reus, sometimes called the external element or the objective element of a crime, is the Latin term for the "guilty act" which, when proved beyond a reasonable doubt in combination with the mens rea, "guilty mind", produces criminal liability in the common law-based criminal law jurisdictions...

("guilty action") and mens rea
Mens rea
Mens rea is Latin for "guilty mind". In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime. The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means "the act does not make a person guilty...

("guilty mind"), to constitute a crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

; except in crimes of strict liability
Strict liability
In law, strict liability is a standard for liability which may exist in either a criminal or civil context. A rule specifying strict liability makes a person legally responsible for the damage and loss caused by his or her acts and omissions regardless of culpability...

. In theory, if the actus reus does not hold concurrence in point of time with the mens rea then no crime has been committed.


Suppose for example that, by accident while driving, the accused injures a pedestrian. Aware of the collision, the accused rushes from the car only to find that the victim is a hated enemy. At this point, the accused jumps up and down with joy proclaiming how pleased they are to have caused this injury. The conventional rule is that no crime has been committed. The actus reus is complete and no rule of ratification applies in the Criminal Law, i.e. whereas in the Law of Agency
Agency (law)
The law of agency is an area of commercial law dealing with a contractual or quasi-contractual, or non-contractual set of relationships when a person, called the agent, is authorized to act on behalf of another to create a legal relationship with a third party...

 a Principal
Principal (law)
In commercial law, a principal is a person, legal or natural, who authorizes an agent to act to create one or more legal relationships with a third party...

 may retrospectively adopt a transaction as if they had originally authorised the Agent to conclude an agreement with the Third Party and so acquires liability under that agreement, an alleged criminal cannot retrospectively adopt an actus reus and acquire guilt. To be convicted, the accused must have formed the mens rea either before or during the commission of the actus reus and, in the vast majority of cases, this rule works without difficulty.

Two Types of Concurrence in Criminal Law:
  1. Temporal Concurrence - the actus reus and mens rea occur at the same time.
  2. Motivational Concurrence - the mens rea motivates the actus reus.

The problem

Not all events are limited to a particular moment in time. The normal physical rules of cause
Causation (law)
Causation is the "causal relationship between conduct and result". That is to say that causation provides a means of connecting conduct with a resulting effect, typically an injury. In criminal law, it is defined as the actus reus from which the specific injury or other effect arose and is...

 and effect may see a series of interlocking circumstances conspire to cause a particular injury. If the facts of the example above are slightly changed so that the accident occurs at night at a sharp bend on a very quiet country road. When the driver sees the victim lying in the road he simply leaves the unconscious person where he fell. Some hours later, when a second car innocently comes around the corner and kills the victim, the first driver is happily asleep in his bed. Thus, he argues that, at the time of the death, he had no mens rea and so cannot be guilty of homicide. This argument fails because of the so-called Single Transaction Principle

Single transaction principle

Not all acts forming the basis of an actus reus are single, unconnected events. Everything happens in a context. Hence, in the example given, the victim would not have died if the first driver had not abandoned him at a dangerous point on the road. The law will treat the actus reus as having started with the accidental injury and ended with the death, i.e. the sequence of events is so inevitably linked that it can all be viewed as a single transaction. So long as the requisite mens rea is formed before the sequence begins or during the sequence (and before it ends), the accused will be liable. For example, in Fagan v Metropolitan Police Commissioner (1969) 1 QB 439, a police officer ordered the defendant to park his car and he reluctantly complied. In doing so, he accidentally drove the car on to the policeman’s foot and, when asked to remove the car, said "Fuck you, you can wait" and turned off the ignition. Because of the steel toe cap in his boot, the policeman's foot was not in actual danger, but the Divisional Court held that this could constitute a common assault
Common assault
Common assault was an offence under the common law of England, and has been held now to be a statutory offence in England and Wales. It is committed by a person who causes another person to apprehend the immediate use of unlawful violence by the defendant. It was thought to include battery...

. Albeit accidentally, the driver had caused the car to rest on the foot. This actus reus was a continuing state of affairs for so long as the car rested on the officer's foot and the mens rea was formed before the car was removed. Whether realistically or not, the officer apprehended the possibility of injury so the offence of common assault was complete. A different way of justifying liability in this type of situation would be to redefine the actus reus as an omission and to base the liability on the failure to move the car. Returning to the example of the injured man left in the road, there would be reckless or wilful blindness as to whether he might subsequently be injured as a result.

But not every factual sequence can be so conveniently recast as an omission. Suppose, for example, that A sees his enemy, B, and decides to attack him. A picks up a stick and begins to chase B who runs into a hotel, up the stairs and into a room, locking the door behind him. A hammers at the door, shouting threats. A then sees a fire axe in a glass case nearby. He tells B that he is going for the axe and will break down the door. When A walks away, B is so terrified that he jumps out of the window and breaks his legs. Even though A might not have had an immediate intention to injure B at the critical moment when B jumped, the fear was inspired with an appropriate intention and B would not have been desperate enough to jump had it not been for that fear. [It is fair to exclude liability when B's fear is entirely unreasonable given A's behaviour because B's self-induced injury will break the chain of causation}.

This latter example raises a separate issue which is that it is sufficient to base a conviction on the presence of mens rea at some time during the occurrence of the events comprising the single transaction. The fact that the accused might mistakenly believe they have succeeded in the crime does not prevent a conviction. For example, suppose that A begins to strangle B and, believing B to be dead, abandons the "body" in nearby woods where B dies of exposure. A will still be convicted of the homicide even though the relevant behaviour of abandoning the body was not accompanied by a mens rea.

And for the sake of completeness, if A commits an offence with an actus reus and a mens rea, it will not affect liability that A subsequently repents the crime and effects restitution. Thus, if A steals goods from B but then returns them together with some money to make good the damage caused during the forced entry, this cannot change the fact that there was an actus reus accompanied by an appropriate mens rea. A crime was committed although the subsequent conscience-based behaviour would be a relevant consideration during the sentencing
Sentence (law)
In law, a sentence forms the final explicit act of a judge-ruled process, and also the symbolic principal act connected to his function. The sentence can generally involve a decree of imprisonment, a fine and/or other punishments against a defendant convicted of a crime...

 stage of the trial.

English case law examples

  • Thabo Meli v R (1954) 1 AER 373 (PC) Four defendants intended to kill their victim so they induced him to consume alcohol, struck him on the head and threw the "body" over a cliff to make the death appear accidental. Because they thought that the blow had killed him, there was no mens rea when they abandoned him and he died from exposure. The first act did not cause death but had the appropriate mens rea. The second act caused death but had no mens rea. But the Privy Council
    Privy council
    A privy council is a body that advises the head of state of a nation, typically, but not always, in the context of a monarchic government. The word "privy" means "private" or "secret"; thus, a privy council was originally a committee of the monarch's closest advisors to give confidential advice on...

     held that it was impossible to divide up what was really one transaction. The actus reus was said to be the series of acts and omissions with mens rea covering the initial stages.
  • In R v Church (1965) 2 AER 72 during an argument, the defendant struck the victim and, mistakenly believing her to be dead, threw her into a nearby river where she drowned. He was convicted of manslaughter.
  • In R v LeBrun (1991) 4 AER 673, the defendant struck his wife during an argument outside their house leaving her unconscious. He then tried to drag her inside but, as he did so, her head struck the pavement, fracturing her skull and killing her. At first sight, this is distinguishable from R v Church because death was accidental, whereas Church was intentionally disposing of the "body". But, in attempting to drag his unconscious wife indoors, LeBrun was either trying to conceal his initial assault on her, or forcing her to enter the house against her wishes (this being the original reason for the argument). The trial judge had directed the jury to acquit if they concluded that LeBrun had been trying to help his wife when he moved her, and the Court of Appeal agreed that this would have broken the essential nexus between the two halves of the incident.
  • In AG's Reference (No. 4 of 1980) (1981) 2 AER 617 the defendant was struggling with his girlfriend and she fell over a landing rail on to the floor below. Believing her dead, he dismembered her in the bath to dispose of her "body". It was impossible to prove whether she had died in the original fall or whether he killed her by his subsequent actions. The Court of Appeal held that a manslaughter conviction was only possible if each of the defendant's acts was accompanied by the requisite mens rea for that offence. At the very least, there must be an unlawful act which was the cause of the ultimate death. It was not enough to establish criminal negligence
    Criminal negligence
    In the criminal law, criminal negligence is one of the three general classes of mens rea element required to constitute a conventional as opposed to strict liability offense. It is defined as an act that is:-Concept:...

     only in the subsequent act of disposal. Hence, the prosecution had to disprove D's claim of accident, i.e. that he had merely pushed her away in a "reflex action" when she dug her nails into him in the struggle on the upstairs landing.
  • Fagan v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner
    Fagan v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner
    Fagan v Metropolitan Police Commissioner [1969] 1 QB 439, [1968] 3 All ER 442, [1968] 3 WLR 1120, 52 Cr App R 700, DC is a leading case that illustrates the requirement of concurrence of actus reus and mens rea in order to establish an offence under the criminal law of England and...

    [1968] 3 All ER 442, where angry Mr Fagan wouldn't take his car off a policeman's foot.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.