Strict Liability Offences

Strict liability offences do not require the prosecutor to prove you had a particular state of mind, only that you committed the illegal act. But your defence allows you to prove that you took reasonable care not to commit the illegal act. The problem was that you made a reasonable mistake of fact which if it had been true would make you innocent. In other words you took reasonable steps to avoid a particular outcome, you exercised due diligence and although you were wrong, you are morally innocent.

This is the defence of due diligence and it is one of the most potent weapons in your arsenal.

To argue due diligence, you must show that you took all reasonable care to avoid committing the offence. It is not enough to say that you are normally a diligent person or that you take care generally. You must show that you took all reasonable steps to avoid that specific incident.

Here are some examples of weak arguments where the defendants did not demonstrate that they did enough to avoid committing the offence:

You must think about what level of diligence is required to avoid committing the offence. Then you must present a defence that shows that you took all those steps.

For example, in R. v. Gupta, 2008 cited above, the defendant basically told his passengers to wear their seatbelts. But he never checked to see if the children were wearing them. He assumed that they would listen to him and he did nothing else. This is not enough to beat the charge. You must show almost exhaustive diligence to avoid a conviction.

One factor to look at is the likelihood of causing harm or serious injury by your actions. A reasonable person would not do an action it if it is likely that harm would result. But a reasonable person would do the action if the chances of causing harm are remote.

Alternatively you could establish that there was no reasonable alternative to committing the offence or the cost of prevention was prohibitive (as long as the likelihood of harm was remote).

For example, a truck driver may take reasonable care to make sure his load is below the weight restrictions. But heavy rain forced his load of particle board to absorb significant water and he ended up exceeding the maximum weight capacity. He took reasonable care, he covered the load with tarp, he checked the weather report, etc... He did what any reasonable person would have done. He is therefore morally innocent and the justice must acquit him.

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