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Woolmington. v. D.P.P. [1935] A.C. 462

This case stands for:

It is not for the prisoner to establish his innocence but for the prosecution to establish his guilt.  The accused is entitled to the benefit of the doubt.  While the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner there is no such burden on the prisoner to prove his innocence and it is sufficient for him to raise a doubt as to his guilt.  He is not bound to satisfy the jury of his innocence.

Remember AR (actus reus) + F (fault)  = G (guilt)

In a murder case, AR consists of proving of action with the intention of causing death.

Prosecution case cannot be built on the testimony of the accused.  Otherwise, this would run counter to the principle against self-incrimination and presumption of innocence.

Old rule: judge would instruct jury, "A man intends the natural and probable consequences of his actions."   Healy: this rule is fundamentally and categorically wrong.

Elements of Guilt


Acts, omissions and states of being: voluntariness


R. v. King [1962] S.C.R. 746

This case stands for:

There can only be an actus reus where there is willpower to do an act whether the accused knew or not that the act was prohibited by law.

Rabey v. R. [1980] 2 S.C.R. 513 (concerned a disassociated state)

This case stands for:

Automatism means an unconscious involuntary act and it is a basic principle that absence of volition in respect of the act involved is always a defence to a crime.

R. v. Parks [1992] 2 S.C.R. 871 (concerned sleepwalking)

This case stands for:

Rather than being a “defence”, automatism is actually part of the actus reus component of criminal liability because it is a subset of the voluntariness requirement.

R. v. Stone [1999] 2 S.C.R. 290


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