As a general rule, the law does not hold individuals criminally liable for what they do not do. However, under certain circumstances, a legal duty will be imposed and failure to act as a result in the prosecution of the accused. Using relevant case law to illustrate your point, critically examine the law of omission in both its legal and moral context. An actus reus consists of more than just an act. It also consists of whatever circumstances and consequences are recognised for liability for the offence in question - in other words all the elements of an offence other than the mental element. Crimes can be divided into two categories:
First, there are conduct crimes where the actus reus is the prohibited conduct itself. For example, the actus reus of the offence of dangerous driving is simply "driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place" (s2 Road Traffic Act 1988). No harm or consequence of that dangerous driving need be established.
The second type are known as result crimes where the actus reus of the offence requires proof that the conduct caused a prohibited result or consequence. For example, the actus reus of the offence of criminal damage is that property belonging to another must be destroyed or damaged (s1(1) Criminal Damage Act 1971).
Generally there is no criminal liability for failing to act in a certain situation. If there was to be wholesale liability for omission we would be forced to alter our actions and plans in order to prevent outcomes that occur as a result of someone else behaviour.
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