In Queensland, there are a number of offences that are classified as ‘strict liability offences’.
These are offences that a person can be found guilty of even if they did not intend to commit them, meaning that in criminal proceedings relating to these types of charges, the prosecution does not need to prove that the accused sought to commit a crime – only that a crime was, in fact, committed.
In this article, our criminal lawyers explain what a strict liability offence is, as well as some common strict liability offences in Australia.
What Is A Strict Liability Offence?
The defining feature of a strict liability offence is the absence of any requirement of intention, meaning that the accused did not need to intend to commit the crime in order to be found guilty.
This means that these offences do not follow the common law presumption that ‘mens rea‘, or ‘guilty mind’ is an essential ingredient of being charged for an offence.
Instead, strict liability offences only require the prosecution to prove that the physical elements of the offence took place, regardless of whether or not there was any intent to commit a crime.
These offences are considered crimes against public policy as opposed to carrying any inherent moral wrongdoing.
What Are Some Common Strict Liability Offences in Australia?
Many of the most common strict liability offences in Australia involve traffic offences, such
- Drink driving
- Failing to wear a seatbelt
For example, if you have been charged with speeding, the prosecution is not required to prove that you intended to speed, but only that you did speed.
However, while the majority of traffic offences are now classified as strict liability offences, there are still some that require the prosecution to prove that the defendant was aware of
their actions and intended to commit a crime, such as dangerous driving.
Certain corporate offences such as providing false information to a regulator or the general public can also involve strict liability, as the prosecution does not have to prove that there was intention behind the release of incorrect information.
What Are Legal Defences To A Strict Liability Offence?
In a case involving a strict liability offence, a common defence available to the accused is the ‘honest and reasonable mistake of fact’ defence. This defence can be used where the accused reasonably believed that they were not committing an offence, even if this belief was mistaken.
This defence is outlined in Section 24 of the Criminal Code Act 1899, which states that: “A person who does or omits to do an act under an honest and reasonable, but mistaken, belief in the existence of any state of things is not criminally responsible for the act or omission to any greater extent than if the real state of things had been such as the person believed to exist.”
To examine this defence, let’s imagine that an individual has been charged with driving while disqualified. If the accused can prove that they were not aware that their licence had been suspended, for example, if the regulatory body sent the suspension notice to an incorrect address, they would be able to use the honest and reasonable mistake of fact defence.
Have You Been Charged With A Strict Liability Offence?
If you’ve been charged with a strict liability offence, you should seek legal representation immediately.
An experienced criminal lawyer will be able to understand the nuances of your case, as well as help with creating defence based around an honest and reasonable mistake of fact.
At Guest Lawyers, our team of Brisbane criminal lawyers are licensed to practice across Australia and often travel to other states and territories to do so. If you would like to discuss a defence for burglary or robbery, get in touch with our lawyers either via Guest Lawyers’ email or by calling (07) 3211 3007.
We offer initial consultations (including in prisons) to assist with a number of assault charges, and act for all persons required to appear before the Magistrates and Supreme Court. We also conduct appeals in the Court of Appeal and High Court.