A critical Analysis of the meaning of the literal intepretation of the latin maxim,actus facit reum,nisi mens sit rea

Thumbnail Image
Nsomboshi, Saviuor
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Throughout human history criminal law has always been an important part of regulation of human conduct and behavior in society. The Latin maxim actus facit rum. mem sit rea has been an important part of criminal element necessary to constitute a crime proscribed and punishable by law. Since criminal law is punitive, it is therefore cardinal that all the necessary requirements of the offence be proved in order for the accused to be found guilty as charged. The prosecution must prove the elements of the crime beyond reasonable doubt. Many scholars and judges have attempted to give an interpretation, or rather the translation of meaning of the said maxim over time, for centuries now. The question that arises is whether the interpretation of the said maxim does reflect the actual application of proving criminal elements of a crime, or whether it is the shortfall of the maxim itself in the meaning it carries. Although the importance of the maxim in bringing out the constituent element of a crime cannot under emphasized, the said maxim has been struck with obscurity. With the recent developments in social, economic and political developments over decades of centuries societies have become more sophisticated and criminal law as a tool of social control has been extended to cover these new areas of crimes created by certain legislation which do not reflect the interpretation or perhaps the meaning of the maxim. Consequently, the question to regard is whether the obscurity of the maxim is due to its inherent character. One therefore wonders, whether the maxim is only applicable to certain statutory and common law offences as a matter of fact, or that it being misleading and falling short of practical application is due to its inherent character? It is therefore the aim of this essay to perilously analyse the extent to which the maxim is adequate to bring out the law, or the law in action, not only in Zambia but in all common law jurisdictions.From the findings of this paper, it has been established that the maxim is obscure, somehow misleading and hence superfluous. Therefore, there is need to come up with terms that will properly and adequately stress out the constituent element of crimes at least with certainty, such terms as recommended in the last chapter of this paper.
Criminal law (Zambian law)