The coincidence of Actus Reus and Mens Rea
With most crimes the actus reus and mens rea will coincide. However, there are occasions when they are not present together.
Thabo Meli V R (1954) - D attacked a man and believed they had killed him. They then pushed the body over a low cliff. The man died of exposure. The defendant was found guilty of murder because the mens rea was present from the outset.
Where the actus and mens do not coincide, the courts will look to see the form of mens present from the outset and they will carry the mens across.
Church (1965) – D had a fight with a woman who jeered at his impotence. He knocked her out, thought she was dead and threw her body in the river. She died of drowning. The mens rea was not present for murder only manslaughter. The courts treated the act as a series of acts.
This is the principle that the defendant can be guilty if he intended to commit a similar crime but against a different victim. The ‘intention’ simply transfers from one victim to another.
D aimed a blow with a belt a man because he had attacked him. The belt bounced off the man and struck a woman in the face. Latimer was guilty of assaulting the woman even though there was no intention to hit her.