R vs Prince, 1875
Cockburn, C.J., Kelly C.B., Grove, Mellor, Lush, Quain, Denman, Archibald, Field, Lindley, Brett and Blackburn, JJ., Cleasby, Amphlett, Bramwell and Pollack, BB.
Is the court required to read a mens rea requirement into a statute that is silent with regard to the mental state required to make the act a crime?
The Court held that “Mistake of fact does not stand as a defense to a crime where the statute making the act a crime contains no requirement of knowledge of that fact to begin with.In this case the forbidden act is wrong in itself and the legislature has enacted that if anyone does this act, he does so at his own risk.The dissent believes that there can be no conviction of a crime without a finding of criminal intent mens rea. A reasonable mistake of fact, where the mistaken belief, if true, would not have resulted in the defendant committing a criminal act, should be an excuse that is implied in all criminal charges”.
-Para 3 (R vs Prince, 1875)