Regina v. Prince
L.R. 2 Cr. Cas. Res. 154 (1875)
- Prince wanted to be with a girl named Annie. Her parents disapproved. He ran away with her.
- Annie told Prince that she was 18.
- Turns out she was only 14.
- The Trial Court convicted Prince of “taking a girl under 16 out of the possession of her parents.”
- The Trial Court based their decision on the plain facts of the case.
- The British Appellate Court affirmed.
- The Appellate Court found that regardless of whether or not the defendant knew the girl was of age that it be a crime, the act was wrong in itself, therefore he had the right mens rea in that he committed the act and is guilty.
- The Appellate Court agreed that Prince honestly believed that Annie was 18, and that that belief was reasonable, but the law did not say that a person will be guilty only if “he believes the girl to be under 16.”
- That would be adding an extra element that the prosecution would need to prove.
- In a dissent it was argued that Prince had made a mistake of fact, and Prince had not mens rea to commit any crime at all.
- The dissent argued that if someone meant to commit a crime, and ended up committing a more serious crime then they could be found guilty of the more serious crime, but if they meant to commit no crime at all, mistake of fact should be a valid excuse.
- For example, under the dissent’s reasoning, if you assault some chump and they turn out to be a policeman, you can still be held guilty for assaulting a policeman even though you didn’t know it.
- The basic point of this case is that under the common law, ignorance is no excuse. Unless a Statute specifically says that you have to have knowledge that your actions are a crime, then you are still guilty even if you didn’t think you were doing anything wrong.