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B (A Child) v DPP [2000]

Facts

  • B, a boy aged 15, incited a girl aged 13 to perform oral sex on him during a bus journey
  • B claimed that he honestly believed the girl to be over 14
  • The boy was convicted of inciting a child under 14 to commit an act of gross indecency, an offence with no mens rea requirement

Issue

  • Could a mens rea aspect be read into the offence?

Decision

  • Yes, an honest belief requirement was read into the offence

Reasoning

  • A presumption of mens rea will be read into offences
  • The Sexual Offences Act 2003 repealed the offence in this case, replacing it with a strict liability offence; however the presumption of a mes rea requirement still remains good law
  • Lord Nicholls – the more serious an offence is, the more there is a presumption of the defendant’s guilty mind
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