Prince wanted to be with a
girl named Annie. Her parents disapproved. He ran away with her.
Annie told Prince that she was
Turns out she was only 14.
The Trial Court convicted
Prince of "taking a girl under 16 out of the possession of her
The Trial Court based their
decision on the plain facts of the case.
The British Appellate Court
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