George Mousourakis* JUSTIFICATION AND EXCUSE INTRODUCTION A n g l o - A m e r i c a n C r i m i n a l law doctrine proceeds from the principle that a person cannot be found guilty of an offence unless two basic elements are established: the conduct or state of affairs which a particular offence prohibits (actus rea) and the state of mind which a person must have at the time of such conduct or state of affairs (mens rea). Criminal liability and punishment depend, moreover, upon the absence of certain excusing or justifying conditions. Justifications chal- lenge the unlawful character of an act which, on the face of it, violates a criminal prohibition. W h e n a justification-based defence is raised the argument is that, in the circumstances, an act which would normally constitute a criminal offence should be considered right or, at least, legally permissible. Excuses, by contrast, do not deny the unlawfulness of the act. What these defences call in question is the attribution of an apparently unlawful act to the actor. An accused who pleads a valid excuse cannot be held blameworthy and therefore culpable for having brought
Tilburg Law Review – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1998
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