In law there is a fundamental principle which is guaranteed by the constitution that every person is innocent until proven to be guilty by the courts of law, in criminal law there are two principles of criminal liability which have to be relied upon in order to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused person. Therefore the aim of this essay is to discuss the two principles of law for criminal liability with reference to the Penal Code Act, Chapter Eighty Seven (87) of the Laws of Zambia and Zambian decided cases. In order to effectively do this, the essay will begin by generally talking about the two principles of law for criminal liability which are the “Actus reus” and the “mens rea” and in order to critically discuss them, focus will be made on the Homicide offence of ‘murder’ with the use of relevant Zambian cases. The terms ‘Actus reus’ and ‘Mens rea’ are derived from the Latin Maxim; “Actus non facit reum mens sit rea” which mean that there cannot be such a thing as legal guilt where there is no moral guilt.1 The learned author Simon E Kulusika defines ‘Actus reus’ as “whatever act or omission or state of affairs as laid down in the definition of the particular crime charged in addition to any surrounding circumstances…and the ‘mens rea’ as the state of mind or fault which is required in the definition of the crime in question”2 In order for a person to be criminally liable it has to be proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt that such a person had committed the required guilty act or ‘actus reus’ which is the physical element and had the necessary mental state or ‘mens rea’ although this is not always the case as some criminal offences do not require the ‘mens rea’ for liability to be established.3 Some of the cases which do not require establishment of the ‘mens rea’ are offences referred to as “offences of strict liability”. In Patel’s Bazaar limited v The People4 it was stated that proof of the ‘mens rea’ is not necessary to...
Kulusika S. E, Criminal law in Zambia; text, cases and materials: UNZA press. Lusaka. 2006
Sir Smith J and Hogan B, Criminal law; Cases and materials, sixth edition: Dublin & Edinburgh. Butterworth. 1996
Chitenge v the people (1996) ZR 37
Mbomena Moola v the people (2000) ZR 148 SC
The Penal Code Act, Chapter 87 of the laws of Zambia.
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