Write a 9 pages paper on essential elements of a criminal offence. Whether or not the House of Lords achieved this goal can only be determined by an examination of the case law that preceded this decision. R v Cunningham has the distinction of introducing into criminal law a definition test for the doctrine of recklessness. Historically, it has been difficult for the term recklessness to find adequate expression in the criminal courts. There have even been attempts by the courts to substitute gross negligence in involuntary manslaughter cases with the term recklessness. The Law Commission in its Report No. 237 on Legislating the Criminal Code explained as follows: Because judges found the terminology of gross negligence unwieldy and difficult to explain to juries, they began to use the word recklessness as a synonym to describe a high degree of negligence. In other cases, judges went further, and tried to give detailed definitions of recklessness.1 R v Cunningham can be described as a defining case in this regard. It had the capacity to encompass virtually any criminal offense in that it was concise in its approach to recklessness. In the Cunningham case, the defendant committed theft by taking money from a gas meter. In the process of doing so, he ripped the gas meter out of the wall to which it was attached with the result that the gas lines were left open. Gas escaped into a neighboring basement causing harm to an occupant. The defendant was subsequently charged with and convicted of unlawfully and maliciously administering a noxious thing so as to endanger life2 within the meaning of Section 23 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The conviction was reversed on appeal on the grounds that the judges jury directions were erroneous in that he aligned the term malicious with the term wicked and should have been more specific in his directions.3 In any statutory definition of a crime, malice must be taken not in the old vague sense of wickedness in general but as requiring either.
Essential elements of a criminal offence
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