Monday, August 2, 2010


The Latin expression mens rea means “guilty mind”. The Latin expression culpa means “punishable”. If you take the two Latin expressions in mind it could ascertain what the intentions of the perpetrator was.
The whole question of culpability may be reduced to one simple question namely “could one in all fairness have expected X to avoid the wrongdoing?”
Culpability arises only once it has been established that there was an unlawful act. It would be nonsensical to attach blame to lawful conduct.

The unlawfulness of the act is determined by the criteria which are applicable to everybody in society, whether rich or poor, young or old, clever or stupid. The law also refers to these criteria as “the reasonable man”. This is the reason why it is just as unlawful for somebody who is poor to steal as for somebody who is rich and why it is just as unlawful for psychopaths, who find it very difficult to control their sexual desires, to commit sexual offences as it is for normal people. Criteria employed to determine unlawfulness do not relate to the perpetrator’s personal characteristics.

However, when the question of culpability arises, the picture changes, the focus now shifts to the perpetrator as a person and as an individual, and the question here is whether a particular person, in the light of his personal aptitudes, gifts, short comings and knowledge, and of what the legal order may fairly expect of him, can be blamed for his wrongdoing. If this is the case, it means that the wrongdoing can be attributed to X personally, he is charge with the account arising from the wrongdoing. The question to be asked is what the reasonable man would do in the same circumstances.

Culpability could be simply described as the punitive consequences when committing an offence.

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