Is the Law Fault Based?

Topics: Criminal law, Crime, Actus reus Pages: 4 (1417 words) Published: April 18, 2013
Is the law fault based?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Fault is defined as “error” or “blame”, the wrongdoing and extent of which the defendant is responsible for his actions. The law should only punish those who are at fault and impose punishments which are deserved, whilst being more lenient to those who are not at fault and did not foresee the consequences. In criminal law, fault is proven by the prosecution where people are found guilty, beyond reasonable doubt. In civil law, people are found liable, on a balance of probability.

In order to discuss and evaluate the definition of fault as a basis of crime, it must first be understood and identified where fault can exist. Offences in law are often graded accordingly depending on how much fault they reflect. E.g. indictable offences such as rape and murder are the most serious of crimes and therefore receive the mandatory life sentence in order to reflect this. They cause the most serious damage to the victim and require more intention. However, summary offences such as “common” assault only receive minimal prison sentences, but normally fines up to £5000. This is because the fault is deemed far less as the victim does not suffer as much and there is less intention to commit such a crime. Sentences also reflect to what extent the defendant was at fault. Aggravated factors, like a racially motivated attack or using a weapon indicates a higher level of intention and fault whilst mitigating factors like pleading guilty somewhat lessens the defendants fault in the eyes of the law.

The severity of the crime depends on the level of fault. This can be found in the actus reus of a crime- the guilty physical act. Murder, for example is a voluntary act which demonstrates a higher degree of fault and blame (Smith- where a solider stabbed another solider with a bayonet.) A voluntary act is normally a deliberate act and therefore seems fair to greater level of blame. An omission is...
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