Mens rea

Often referred to as the 'guilty mind'.

Mens rea is often stated to be the requirement of a 'guilty mind' before any act or actus reus can properly be considered to be criminal.  In many cases the necessary state of mind that must be established by the prosecution is intention (this is reserved for the most serious crimes) but it is not always required.  On some ocassions recklessness or negligence may be sufficient.

The mens rea for the offence of murder is 'malice aforethought'.

An understanding of the court’s approach to intention is important if one is to properly understand the principles of mens rea.

The criminal law is about prohibiting behaviour which is unacceptable to society as a whole.  It is about protecting society and holding to account perpetrators of offences.  The criminal law is concerned with 'blameworthiness'.

Some offences are more serious than others – the more serious the offence the higher the level of mens rea.

Intention is reserved for the serious offences i.e. murder, wounding with intent under S18 OAP 1861 and robbery

These levels can be likened to a pyramid;

At the top are the serious offences where intention must be proven. 

Below this comes recklessness for less serious offences such as manslaughter, rape, some assaults and criminal damage. 

Negligence is below this and is reserved for specific offences such as traffic and driving offences.

Finally, at the bottom of the pyramid, are strict liability offences which are largely regulatory in nature.


Transferred Malice

Coincidence (Contemporaneity) Rule


OCR criminal law for A2 fourth edition

Criminal Law

Mens Rea # 1 - Direct and Indirect intention by The Law Bank youtube

Mens Rea # 2 - Recklessness by The Law Bank youtube

Mens Rea # 3 - Transferred Malice by The Law Bank youtube

Mens Rea # 5 - Strict Liability by The Law Bank youtube