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Mens rea refers to the mental state of a defendant in a criminal offence. The presumption of mens rea is that in every offence, there is an evil intention, recklessness, negligence or other type of mens rea involved. In a strict liability offence, there is no need to prove mens rea as it is considered to be irrelevant to the offence committed, which is to say, the mere conduct of the defendant makes it sufficient to convict the defendant. Most of the strict liability offences are statutory offences. As Parliament rarely makes it absolutely clear that what the mens rea of a particular offence is, it is often the court’s discretion to determine whether a crime is a strict liability offence or there is an underlying mens rea requirement. A strict liability offence is usually an offence which is regulatory in nature, in another words, the Parliament’s intention of a strict liability offence is to discourage a certain type of behaviour in society. As strict liability offences are said to be not ‘truly criminal’, they usually carry less severity of punishment and lower level of stigma is being attached.
On the other hand, presumption of innocence is a legal right which stated that in a criminal trial, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. The prosecutor has the burden of proof to collect and present legally admissible evidence to the court in order to convince the judges that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt, or the defendant would be acquitted. Under Article 6.2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), it is stated that ‘Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.’ This section of the ECHR intended to protect the right to fair trial.
As seen from the above definitions, it is difficult for courts to draw distinctions between the two presumptions. When an accused is being convicted of a strict liability offence, the fact that the defendant may not be aware of the situation...