Intention was defined by the court of Appeal in Mohan as a decision to bring about, insofar as it lies within the accused power (a particular consequence) no matter whether the accused desired that consequence of his act or not. Such an intention is described as a direct intention. For example, a person has direct intention to kill if he fixes at someone whom he believes to be outside the normal range of his gun in an endeavor to kill him provided that he has decided to bring about a particular consequence, insofar as it lies within his power, a person acts with a direct intention in relation to it even though he believes he is unlikely to succeed in bringing it about.
A consequence of a person’s conduct is said to have been obliquely intended by him when, although he had not decided to bring it about, in-so-far-as it lay with his power, it was foreseen by him as a certain probable side effect of something which he did aim to achieve.
The essence of mens rea is that criminal liability should be imposed only on persons who are sufficiently aware of what they are doing, and of the consequences it might have, that they can fairly be said to have chosen the behavior and its consequences. Mens rea can be detected in the following: intention, negligence, recklessness.
In the case of murder, its mens rea is the intention to kill or commit grievous bodily harm. In QUEEN V. ONORO, where the accused struck a blow with a matchet, which cut through the left shoulder down to the root of the neck and spilt the bone, round by the spinal cord, having cut through the muscles and nerves. BAIRAMAIN, F.J. held that the accused has the intention to kill.
In the case of theft and robbery the mens rea there is the intention to take another’s property.
THE ACTUS REUS/MENS REA COMBINATION IN CRIME
In order to constitute a crime, the actus reus and the mens rea must coincide, in point of law and in point, of time.59 It is the coincidence of ‘actus reus and’ ‘mens rea’ which constitutes and justifies criminal liability; The temporal coexistence of ‘actus reus’ and ‘mens rea’. An “actus reus at one moment and ‘mens rea’ at another do not standardly combine to form criminal liability.
For example, if, on Monday, I conceive an intention to kill someone but think better of it on Tuesday, and then accidentally run that person over, I am not guilty of murder. Even if I still have the intention. I will not be guilty if the killing is a genuine accident. Secondly, the idea of coincidence implies that there mental elements with respect to each aspect of the offence.
Where in a given situation, there were series of unlawful acts leading to the death of another, whereby the later or recent development was the actual act which caused the death of the deceased, what will be looked at before determining whether the accused is liable for murder is the intention or mens rea at the time of the first attack.
For example, where a man struck his wife, knocking her clown unconscious. He then attempted to lift the body away from the scene but she slipped from his grasp, hit her head on the pavement and subsequently died from a fractured skull. In this situation the act and the mental state do not have to coincide in point of time. The accused is to be held liable.
Things would have been different if at the time the second occurred he was trying to place her in a comfortable position or take into the house and not dispose of her to evade liability.