Regina v K: HL 25 Jul 2001

In a prosecution for an offence of indecent assault on a girl under 16 under the section, it was necessary for the prosecution to prove the absence of a positive belief in the defendant’s mind that the victim was 16 or over. The legislation history showed an anomalous bringing together of different, and conflicting strands of law. The 1956 and 1960 Acts must be read together, and section 14 must be read so as to require proof of mens rea, and for its absence to be a defence.
Lord Steyn he said that it was unhelpful to ‘inquire into the history of subjective views held by individual legislators’ and that the ‘always speaking’ nature of a statute dealing with sexual offences meant that a particular provision had to be interpreted ‘in the world as it exists today, and in the light of the legal system as it exists today’.


Bingham of Cornhill, Nicholls, Steyn, Hobhouse and Millett LL, Millet


Times 26-Jul-2001, Gazette 06-Sep-2001, [2001] UKHL 41, [2001] 3 WLR 471, [2002] 1 AC 462


Bailii, House of Lords


Sexual Offences Act 1956 14, Indecency with Children Act 1960 1(1), Criminal Law Amendment Act 1922 2


England and Wales


CitedB (A Minor) v Director of Public Prosecutions HL 23-Feb-2000
Prosecution to prove absence of genuine belief
To convict a defendant under the 1960 Act, the prosecution had the burden of proving the absence of a genuine belief in the defendant’s mind that the victim was 14 or over. The Act itself said nothing about any mental element, so the assumption must . .
CitedRegina v Prince 1875
The defendant was convicted of unlawfully taking an unmarried girl under the age of 16 out the possession of her father. The defendant bona fide and on reasonable grounds believed that the girl was over 16.
Held: This provided no defence. ‘It . .
CitedRegina v Tolson CCR 11-May-1889
Honest and Reasonable mistake – No Bigamy
The defendant appealed against her conviction for bigamy, saying that she had acted in a mistaken belief.
Held: A man commits bigamy if he goes through a marriage ceremony while his wife is alive, even though he honestly and reasonably . .
CitedGammon v The Attorney-General of Hong Kong PC 1984
(Hong kong) The court considered the need at common law to show mens rea. A Hong Kong Building Ordinance created offences of strict liability in pursuit of public safety which strict liability was calculated to promote.
Held: Lord Scarman . .
CitedSherras v De Rutzen QBD 2-May-1895
The court considered the need to establish mens rea where it was dealing with something which was one of a class of acts which ‘are not criminal in any real sense, but are acts which in the public interest are prohibited under a penalty’, and ‘There . .
CitedRegina v Kimber CACD 1983
For mens rea, it is the defendant’s belief, not the grounds on which it is based, which goes to negative the intent. The guilty state of mind was the intent to use personal violence to a woman without her consent. If the defendant did not so intend, . .
CitedRex v Forde CCA 1923
A man, under the age of 23, had intercourse with a 15 year-old girl. He was charged with offences against section 5(1) of the 1885 Act and section 52 of the 1861 Act, relating to the same act of intercourse. He pleaded not guilty to the first (more . .
CitedSweet v Parsley HL 23-Jan-1969
Mens Rea essential element of statutory Offence
The appellant had been convicted under the Act 1965 of having been concerned in the management of premises used for smoking cannabis. This was a farmhouse which she visited infrequently. The prosecutor had conceded that she was unaware that the . .
CitedWarner v Metropolitan Police Commissioner HL 1968
The appellant had been convicted of an offence contrary to section 1 of the 1964 Act, of having been found in possession of drugs.
Held: (Reid dissenting) The prosecution had only to prove that the accused knew of the existence of the thing . .
CitedRex v Laws CCA 1928
The defendant had intercourse with a girl aged 15 years and 9 months. He was about a year older.
Held: He could rely on the statutory defence to a charge laid against him under section 5 of the 1885 Act, but he had pleaded guilty to a count of . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Rogers 1953
It was not an assault on a girl, for a man to invite an eleven year old girl to touch him (in this case her father) indecently. . .
CitedFairclough v Whipp CCA 1951
The defendant was charged with indecent assault on a girl aged nine. At the man’s invitation the girl had committed an indecent act on the man.
Held: An invitation to another person to touch the invitor could not amount to an assault on the . .
CitedBrend v Wood 1946
The court discussed the need to assume that conviction for an offence required proof of mens rea.
Lord Goddard CJ said: ‘It should first be observed that at common law there must always be mens rea to constitute a crime; if a person can show . .
CitedRex v Keech 1929
K was aged 21 when he had intercourse with a girl under the age of 16 and faced counts of unlawful carnal knowledge and indecent assault, the facts relied on in relation to both sets of counts being the same. The mother of the victim gave evidence . .
CitedRex v Maughan CCA 1934
The defendant was aged 22 and the child between 13 and 16. There were six counts, three of carnal knowledge, three of indecent assault, arising from the same facts. He was acquitted on the carnal knowledge counts, plainly because he made good the . .
CitedRegina v Venna CACD 31-Jul-1975
An assault is an act by which the defendant intentionally or recklessly causes the complainant to apprehend immediate, or to sustain, unlawful personal violence. The jury ought to be directed that the defendant cannot be guilty of an assault unless . .

Cited by:

CitedRegina v Fernandez CACD 22-May-2002
The defendant had been convicted of indecent assault upon a boy aged under 16. He appealed saying that no account had been taken of the fact that he had believed the boy to be eighteen.
Held: Following R v K, that the defendant had been . .
CitedRegina v J HL 14-Oct-2004
The defendant was to have been accused of having unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 16. Proceedings could not be brought, because the allegation was more than a year old, and he was instead accused of indecent assault, but on the same . .
CitedSheldrake v Director of Public Prosecutions; Attorney General’s Reference No 4 of 2002 HL 14-Oct-2004
Appeals were brought complaining as to the apparent reversal of the burden of proof in road traffic cases and in cases under the Terrorism Acts. Was a legal or an evidential burden placed on a defendant?
Held: Lord Bingham of Cornhill said: . .
CitedRegina v Kumar CACD 16-Dec-2004
The defendant appealed a conviction for buggery of a complainant under the age of 16, saying that he had a genuine belief that the boy had been of age.
Held: Buggery was not an absolute offence. The amendments to the 1956 Act did not signify . .
CitedKonzani, Regina v CACD 17-Mar-2005
The defendant appealed conviction for inflicting grievous bodily harm on three women, by having unprotected sexual intercourse knowing that he was HIV positive, but without telling the women. Each contracted HIV. The allegation was that he had . .
CitedBrown, Regina v (Northern Ireland) SC 26-Jun-2013
The complainaint, a 13 year old girl had first said that the defendant had had intercourse with her againt her consent. After his arrest, she accepted that this was untrue. On being recharged with unlawful intercourse, he admitted guilt believing he . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 21 August 2022; Ref: scu.88519