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    Sunday, 22 October 2017

    Strict Liability and it's Kinds

    1. INTRODUCTION
    Strict Liability Offences are those for which a man is responsible irrespective of the existence of either wrongful intent or negligence. They are the exceptions to the general requirement of fault.

    2. CONCEPT OF LIABILITY
    Liability implies the state, of a person who has acted contrary to a duty. Thus liability is the responsibility which befalls an offend when he commits an offence. Liability arises from a breach of a duty and wrong.

    3. MEANING OF LIABILITY
    According to Markby;
    "The word liability is used to describe the condition of a person who has a duty to perform".

    4. KINDS OF LIABILITY

    Liability is of following kinds;
    (i) Criminal Liability
    (ii) Civil Liability
    (iii) Remedial Liability
    (iv) Penal Liability
    (v) Vicarious Liability
    (vi) Strict Liability

    5. CONCEPT OF STRICT LIABILITY
    To discuss the concept of strict liability we need to first look at the classification of offences. Offences can broadly be classified in two categories those which require proof of intention, recklessness and negligence; and offences of strict liability i.e. where's person Is held responsible irrespective of the existence of either wrongful intent or negligence.

    6. DEFINITION OF STRICT LIABILITY CRIMES
    (I) GENERAL DEFINITION
    "Acts. for which a man is held responsible irrespective of the existence of either wrongful intent or negligence, are said to be offences of strict liability.

    (II) ACCORDING TO BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY
    "Unlawful acts whose elements do not contain the need for criminal intent or Mens Rea. These crimes are usually acts that endanger the public welfare, such as illegal dumping of toxic wastes."

    (III) ACCORDING TO SMITH & HOGAN
    "Crimes which do not require intention, recklessness or even negligence as to one or more elements in Actus Reus are known as offences of strict liability."

    (IV) ACCORDING TO CASE LAW MEANING
    White House Vs. Lemon
    "An offence is regarded properly as one of strict liability, if no Mens Rea needs to be proved as to a single element in the Actus Reus."

    7. RULES REGARDING LIABILITY
    (I) GENERAL RULE
    The general rule in criminal law is that in order to prove a crime, along with the Actus Reus, the presence of Mens Rea or guilty mind should also be proved.

    (II) STRICT LIABILITY; AN EXCEPTION TO THE GENERAL RULE
    Strict liability crimes are exceptions to this general principle where a person is punished for committing a wrong even if he has no guilty mind. In such cases the law does not enquire whether the guilty person had committed the wrong intentionally, negligently or innocently.

    8. STRICT LIABILITY AT COMMON LAW
    (I) GENERAL RULE
    The general rule regarding strict liability in common law was that there are no strict liability offences.

    (II) EXCEPTIONS TO THE GENERAL RULE
    There are certain exceptions to this general rule as follows;

    (i) Public Nuisance
    A master may be held liable for the acts of his servant even though he himself did not know it had taken place. More so of vicarious liability.

    (ii) Criminal Libel
    A publisher could be held liable for criminal libel on part of his employee. However the Libel Act, 1843 changed this rule' stating that it was a valid defense to show that publication was without his authority.

    (iii) Contempt of Court
    It is an offence to publish inaccurate reports of evidence at trial in such a manner that the members of jury might be influenced in their decision. This has been affirmed by the Contempt of Court Act, 1981.

    (iv) Blasphemy
    Writing is blasphemous when it has a tendency to shock and outrage the followers of a certain religion. It is not necessary to prove that the defendant was aware of this tendency. It is sufficient to show that he intentionally used words which in fact are likely to shock or outrage some people.

    9. EXAMPLES OF STRICT LIABILITY

    In Pakistan, the penalty for some of the strict liability offences even goes up to death. Here usually following are the areas where strict liability offences are to be found;
    (i) Blasphemy
    (ii) Drugs
    (iii) Qatl-i-Khata
    (iv) Unintentional hurt where compensation in some forth has to be paid.
    (v) Weapons
    (vi) Driving and traffic offences.

    10. SIGNIFICANCE OF STRICT LIABILITY
    Significance of Strict Liability can be observed by seeing the reasons for imposing strict liability as follows;
    (i) It is difficult to prove the intention or negligence of the offender.
    (ii) The primary function. of courts is the prevention of crime and strict liability deals with this most effectively.
    (iii) Without this theory many guilty people would escape.
    (iv) It is necessary to impose strict liability in public interest. For in many cases in which strict liability is imposed the public does need protection against negligence.

    11. STRICT LIABILITY AND ISLAMIC LAW
    In Islamic Law, the general rule of proving intention is strictly followed. Strict liability is against the general rule that acts are to be determined in the light of intention. However strict liability has been used in a limited way. e.g. in case of Khata where compensation has to be paid to the victim.

    12. SITUATIONS FOR APPLICABILITY OF STRICT LIABILITY
    According to Salmond, wrongs of strict liability fall into following three categories;

    (I) MISTAKE OF FACT
    Mistake of fact is generally a good defence in criminal law, but it is not an excuse in civil cases following the maxim; "Ignorantia facte excusat", which means "mistake of fact is a good excuse". It is also to be noted that mistake of fact is not always a good excuse in criminal cases e.g. in cases of strict liability, the same was decided in R Vs. Prince.
    Case Law: R Vs. John White
    Facts: A police officer arrests plaintiff believing in good faith to be someone else who was wanted by the police under charge of murder.
    Held: It was held that the police officer was under a mistake of fact, thus not liable.

    (II) MISTAKE OF LAW
    Strict Liability is applied in Mistake of Law. It is well-recognized principle in all legal system that "ignorantia furls neminem excusat" which means that ignorance of law is no excuse. Therefore knowledge of law is necessary; everyone should have the knowledge of law.
    Case Law: R Vs. Prince, 1875
    Facts: Accused abducted a girl under the age of 16, the girl looked more than 16. The accused took the plea that when she took her away the girl told her that she is 18.
    Held: Court held that accused is liable Under Section 55 of The Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, for unlawfully taking a minor girl under strict liability.

    (III) ACCIDENTS
    Accident is of two kinds;

    (i) Culpable
    Accident is culpable when it is due to negligence. Culpable accident is no defense.

    (ii)Inevitable
    Accident is inevitable when it cannot be avoided. Inevitable accident is a good defense both in civil law and criminal cases.

    13. CONCLUSION

    In Order to conclude we may say that certain offences have strict liability, and Mens Rea is not essential in such crimes. Strict liability offences are exceptions to the general rule which requires that in order to prove a crime Mens Rea along Actus Reus must be proved.
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    Item Reviewed: Strict Liability and it's Kinds Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Usman Ali
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