The criminal law needs defences. Without them there would be many unjust convictions. There are plenty of cases where defendants have committed the actus reus and mens rea of an offence, but still a conviction would be inappropriate. There are even circumstances in which intentionally killing another person is permissible, most obviously self-defence. However, defences create problems for the law. A full moral assessment of each defendant in each case would be impossible. The courts lack the time, evidence or moral authority to make that kind of moral judgment. The law must work with general rules that we hope can apply across the board. This, as we will see, can create problems in cases where unusual facts arise.
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