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Criminal Law Assignment: Potential Form Of Criminal Liability


Read the scenario below and outline the potential criminal liability of Rachel, Peter, Stuart and Louise.

Peter and Rachel is a married couple. Rachel has been having an affair with the couple’s neighbour, Stuart, unbeknownst to Peter. Stuart is a single father, who lives with his 16 years old daughter, Louise.

Feeling guilty about the affair, Rachel visits Stuart and tells him that it is over. Stuart is heartbroken and says, “That’s rich! Well, i’m going to tell Peter!” Rachel, very worried, says “if you tell Peter i’m going to kill you!” and slams the door in Stuart’s face.

Stuart becomes increasingly distraught about the break up and calls Rachel on her mobile. “Here is the deal!” he says to Rachel, “I won’t tell Peter if you pay me $2000”. Rachel, reluctantly, agrees and transfers the money right away.

What Rachel didn’t know was that Stuart had already sent graphic footage of Stuart and Rachel having sex to Peter via an email. That evening, Peter opens his laptop and finds the email. Enraged, Peter grabs a knife from the kitchen and starts running towards Stuart’s house.

Stuart’s daughter, Louise, is outside her house checking the mail and sees Peter bolting towards her.

Fearing the worst, Louise quickly runs around to the side of the house to her Dad’s shed and grabs father’s rifle. Louise makes it back to the front of the house, right when Peter is at the front doorstep and Stuart has just opened the door. Louise yells “Hey!”, Peter turns to face her and Louise pulls the trigger.

Peter is killed instantly. A bullet ricochets and his Stuart in the arm seriously wounding him.

Criminal Law Assignment Task: You will be assessed on your ability to demonstrate your understanding of the concepts and issues central to aspects of criminal law.


According to the case-scenario provided to prepare this criminal law assignment, Peter and Rachel are married; however, Rachel was having an affair with her neighbour Stuart. Stuart has a 16-year-old daughter with whom he lives. Upon confronting Stuart for breaking up regarding their affair, Stuart blackmails Rachel for paying him $2000 for not telling Peter regarding the affair. However, in spite of getting the money, Stuart sends footage of their sexual moments to Peter in an email. As Peter is enraged seeing the footage he runs to Stuart’s home with a knife. Upon seeing this, Louse grabs Stuart’s rifle and as Peter is at Stuart’s doorstep, Louise pulls the trigger. Peter is dead instantly and because of the ricocheting bullet, Stuart’s hand gets potentially injured. The issue, in this scenario lies in understanding the potential form of criminal liability associated with Stuart, Louise, Rachel as well as Peter.

Firstly, it is important to illustrate Rachel’s threatening to Stuart regarding murdering him if he reveals about the affair to Peter. Here according to the “Section 21, Crimes Act, 1958”, Rachel is subjected to the rule of “making a threat to kill”, Stuart in this scenario. According to the “making a threat to kill” the potential threat has been done for injuring an individual and could be reckless as to if the individual would so feat1. In this context, a threat can be further constituted through words or by potential conduct. A series of potential statements, taken together might potentially contribute towards enhancing a “threat to kill”.

Regarding Stuart’s situation, Stuart comprises of being criminally liable towards committing both “Actus Reas and Mens Rea”2. In this context, it is essential to note that “Actus Reas”, is a potential consequence of the major human conduct as legislation overviews to prevent. “Mens rea”, comprises of the range of different mental conditions and an intent for the existence of which could deliver a criminal form of hue associated with the actual crime. The rule in terms of Stuart’s criminal liability lies in presence of “Actus Reas with Mens Rea”, which could be punishable3. The guilty form of intent is clear due to enhancing a criminal form of intention regarding a potential purposiveness or proper design regarding committing an act, which is forbidden through “Criminal Law”, in Australia regardless or any cause or any excuse. It is a case, in terms of Stuart while it stands for a potential form of criminal intention such as in terms of designed as well as visible in premeditated form of crime, committed with a proper foresight associated with its fatal consequences.

In the case of Louise, “Mens rea”, cannot be established; however, “Actus reus”, is present,. In this term the rule is to understand that mental element or potential intention regarding committing a crime is not likely present as the case of Louise4. However her actions of pressing the rifle and shooting at Peter as well as Stuart have resulted in commitment of crime. Defence grounds can lie in terms of assuring that there was not motive or intent to kill Peter if he did not seem threatening to the life of Stuart or Louse. In this context, it is also to be noted that in Northern Territory, Tasmania as well as “Victoria”, in Australia Children are further dealt with adult-criminal system as they turn 17. Additionally in other states under “ACT and Federal Criminal Law”, in Australia it is considered that all children are further juveniles in association with potential purposes related to Criminal law, unless they turn 18 in Australian aspects.

In terms of Peter, he was killed but if he survived, the rule will be of “Mens Rea”, or the criminal form of state of mind. In this context, Peter was enraged after seeing the graphic footage of Stuart and Rachel having sex and proved a potential physical form of action, which is “Actus reus”, along with a motive for committing a crime by running to Stuart’s house with a knife in his hand. It enhances a potential attempt to kill and if he would have survived according to “The Crimes Act, 1958”, the courts would be liable to decide his punishment. It is notable that Mens-rea along with Actus-reus is punishable under Criminal legislation to a four-degree level punishment5.

As per Rachel’s case, there is “Mens Rea”, under the “Crime Act, 1958”, which implies that Rachel is strictly liable to the “general intent, specific intent” as well as criminal recklessness. It illustrates that Rachel comprises of a general form of intention for committing a potential illegal act. All, which was needed for a potential conviction, consisted of a general intent in terms of committing act, which constitutes potential crime. However, there was no specific-intent in this context. Rather, Rachel has been subject to liabilities associated with “Criminal negligence and Recklessness”, which assures that if Rachel knew regarding Stuart’s sending of graphic footage of their intimate moments to Peter, regardless of taking the money, she would have been demonstrated criminal act recklessly or negligently6. Rachel has also been criminally liable towards “Making a threat to kill”, which is a potential offence under S20 of “The Crimes Act, 1958(VIC)”. It further states that an individual is subjected to commit to a potential offence as the accused made a proper threat to complainant (Stuart) for killing them, which Rachel did in the scenario. However in this terms, defence is available as the threat was further made regardless of lawful excuse. Defence lies in terms of “Threat made with lawful excuse”, as Rachel could state that the threat of killing Stuart was done to prevent further crimes as Stuart would have told regarding the affair to Peter and it could trigger further crime.

In terms of Stuart, there is a clear form of criminal liability towards “Blackmailing” Rachel under the Sect87 of “Crimes Act, 1958”7. In this context an individual is further gulty of potential blackmail with a proper view towards enhancing gain for themselves or with an intent regarding causing a major form of loss to another person. Stuart is criminally liable of making unwarranted form of demand with potential menaces without assuring that he do not comprise of any form of reasonable form of grounds for making demand. According to the provided scenario, Stuart comprises of both “Actus reus and mens rea”. Where actus reus further demonstrates that Stuart is liable towards physical aspect regarding the crime which is sending the graphic footage to Peter8. The Mens-rea demonstrates that Stuart have directed to the aforementioned act as well as knowledge as to potential consequences that could follow from his act. Therefore, Stuart comprises a potential intention of committing crime, through blackmailing Rachel at the first place for assuring that he would not tell anything regarding their affair to her husband, Peter. However, upon receiving the agreed amount, he intentionally sent the graphic footage of the intimate video (Rachel and Stuart), to Peter which portraits his mind or proper intention of committing the crime. Stuart also obtained the sum of $2000 through deception that he would not reveal regarding affair to Peter. In this context, it is worthy to mention that originally, there are three form of factors, associated of proving criminal liability in the context, the mens-rea signifies in this context that Stuart is responsible of having an intent or mind for committing the crime of both blackmailing Rachel. Then Stuart have a criminal liability towards taking money from her through act of deception and sending the graphic-footage to Peter, in spite of obtaining the money and knowing the consequences could lead to a crime9.

According to Australian legislation, a child under age of 10 years, is not subjected towards committing an offence. However, Louise being 16, comes under the age associated with “criminal capacity”, although she is not more than 18 years old. In this aspect, as per Louise’s case, it is worthy to note that when Louise saw Peter approaching towards the home, she was scared and ran into Stuart’s shed for bringing up the gun. In this context, it is not clear that she comprised of an intention to kill Peter or not. Therefore, it can be stated that the action of Louise has been illustrated, while being a potential subject to “Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea”10. In this concern, the fundamental form of principle associated with penal-liability is that the act itself is not potentially criminal unless, this has been further accompanied through any guilty mind or intent. In this concern, the defence of Louise could be that out of recklessness as she saw Peter running to Stuart’s house with a knife pointed towards the other side; she was gathering any potential equipment for preventing a crime (self-defence) or for the defence of her father.

In terms of Peter, he showed both “Mens rea and actusreus”, which illustrates that he comprised of a motive to commit the crime (kill or injure Stuart) potentially. He also shown proper physical form of action by running to the house of Stuart holding the knife with a proper motive to conduct a potential crime in this aspect.. Peter is also liable towards “Criminal negligence and recklessness”. Peter’s mental state was enraged; however the only defence grounds he had if he survived was that to show that his mental –state might be in a nature to a risky-degree, that further failed to understand or perceive risks associated with his actions.

It can be concluded from Rachel’s criminal liability aspects, that sentencing regarding charge “of threat to kill”, will further depend on potential context associated with the charge. Courts can bring penalties that can range from any fines or to potential form of community corrections-order or any kind of term associated with imprisonment. In terms of considering the alleged from of threat of killing Stuart, the court is likely to further take account the relationship between Stuart and Rachel and will consider if language in potential question can originally be potentially construed in terms of threatening attributes.

For Stuart, the criminal liability can be further proved through origin in his mental activity of triggering the crime through deceiving Rachel regarding obtaining the money and then sending the footage to Peter11. It also can be proven through the circumstances due to a foresight of Stuart regarding his act’s fatal consequences from a legal point. His criminal liability is primarily penal and lacks proper grounds of defence. In this context, the court will also investigate the motive behind crime committed along with potential magnitude associated with offence. As Stuart’s criminal liability is through both “Mens rea and Actus reus”, his criminal liability might comprise of a punishment as a predominant form of feature associated with different kinds of criminal proceedings in the court.

As far as the potential criminal-liability of Louise is concerned she did not comprise of “Mens rea” and did not have potential motive behind this crime12. However, as Peter was instantaneously killed, it is most likely that there will be a legal charge pressed against her. On the grounds of her defence, it can be stated that Louise ran with a gun for saving herself or her father, at the moment from any crimes, which have been possibly done by Peter if he was alive. Therefore, her motive was good but action was the result of the situation and recklessness. In this concern, a circumstantial form of evidence lies where absence regarding the motive is further favourable to Louise.

As far as Peter is concerned, it can be concluded that if he was alive, Peter could have been held in the court due to committing the crime including a state of “Mens reaand and actus reus”. He would have been strictly liability towards criminal offence against trying to kill or injure (committing a crime with proper motive) Stuart in the relevant moment. Peter is also liable towards Criminal negligence and potential recklessness and if he survived, the court could have charged him with aforementioned charges, due to which Peter acted with gross lack of care aspects regardless of paying potential attention associated with unjustifiable form of risks, which his action pertained.

Bibliography, 2021, Criminal Injustice, Retrieved on 17th October 2021 from

Bagaric, Mirko, and Kenneth Arenson. “Criminal laws in Australia: Cases and materials”. (2004) Oxford University Press,

Bagaric, Mirko, Ken Arenson, and Peter Gillies. “Australian criminal law in the common law jurisdictions: cases and materials”. (2014) Oxford University Press,.

Findlay, Mark, Stephen Odgers, and Stanley Meng Heong Yeo. “Australian criminal justice” (1999) South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.

Herps, Richard. "Constructive murder." (2016) Bar News: The Journal of the NSW Bar Association Winter: 44-46.

Lee, Cynthia. "'Murder and the Reasonable Man'Revisited: A Response to Victoria Nourse." (2005). Criminal law assignment Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 3, no. 1, 2021, Crimes Act, 1958, Retrieved on 17th October 2021 from

NISBET, Tony. "The mental elements of assault in Western Australia." (2015) University of Western Australia Law Review 38, no. 2: 46-61.

R v Leece (1995) 125 ACTR 1.

R v Rich Vic CA 17/12/1997.

The Crime Act 1958 (VIC) Victoria, Australia

Toole, Kellie. "Self-defence and the reasonable woman: Equality before the new Victorian law." (2012) Melbourne University Law Review 36, no. 1: 250-286.


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