Strict and Absolute Liability 1 by kTkmK33X


									Law 12
1                                       Criminal Law                              Ms. Ripley
Strict and Absolute Liability (Law in Action, Blair, p.150)

         For some less serious offences, the Crown does not have to establish mens rea to win a
conviction. Such offences are often against regulatory laws, which are federal and provincial statutes
meant to protect the public welfare. Examples of regulatory laws are those dealing with environmental
protection, workplace safety, hunting and fishing regulations, and traffic offences such as speeding. In
writing these laws, legislators must include words such as willfully or with intent if they wish to show that
the Crown must establish mens rea. When such words have not been included, it is assumed that the
offences do not require mens rea.
    Offences that do not require mens rea can be grouped into two liability categories: strict liability
offences and absolute liability offences. For strict liability offences, the accused may acknowledge that
the offence took place but then offer the defence of due diligence, which means that he or she took
every reasonable precaution to avoid committing the offence in question.
    Many offences dealing with environmental pollution are strict liability offences. Consider the case of
the Acme Waste Disposal Company, charged with polluting a river that runs close to its treatment
facility. Lawyers for the defence showed that the company spent several million dollars over the last five
years in the installation of monitoring devices and special training for staff precisely to avoid the kind of
runoff that occurred from its containment ponds. Further, the defence proved that the runoff occurred as
a direct result of three days of torrential rains that exceeded anything recorded in the last 100 years. In
this case, the judge ruled that the company had shown due diligence. Acme was acquitted of the
    For absolute liability offences, there is no defence possible. Once the Crown has established that
the offence took place and the accused was responsible for it, the court must find the accused guilty.
Driving without a license or exceeding the speed limit are examples of absolute liability offences.
Because offenders can offer no defence to such a charge once the facts have been established, the
Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot be imprisoned for these offences. The usual penalty is a fine.

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