R v. Prince (1875) LR 2 CCR 154

    Facts :

    A man named Henry Prince loved Annie Philips, an unmarried minor girl. He took away her with an intention to marry her. The father of girl reported to the police against Henry Prince alleging that Prince had illegally taken away his minor girl, below the age of 16 years. The Police arrested Henry Prince and filed criminal proceedings against him. Henry Prince was tried for having unlawfully taken away an unmarried girl below the age of 16 years, out of the lawful possession and against the will of her father/the natural guardian.
    The accused contended that he was under the belief that she completed 18 years. He also contended that the girl herself told him about her age was more than 18 years. The accused also argued that he had no mens rea (ill intention).

    Decision and Principles Formulated :
    Jury found upon evidence that before the defendant took her away the girl had told him that she was 18. However Jury held that the accused’s belief about the age of the girl was no defence. It was argued that the statute did not insist on the knowledge of the accused that the girl was under 16 as necessary for conviction, and that the Doctrine of Mens Rea, should nevertheless, be applied and conviction be set aside in the option of criminal intention. 16 Judges tried the case and all but one unanimously held that Henry Prince was guilty of kidnapping.
    The jury formulated certain important rules, while disposing this case:
    1. That when an act is in itself plainly criminal, and is more severely punishable if certain circumstances co-exist, ignorance of the existence of such circumstances is no answer to a charge for the aggravated offence.
    2. That where an act is prima facie innocent and proper, unless certain circumstances co-exist, then ignorance of such circumstance is an answer to the charge.
    3. That the state of the defendant’s mind must amount to absolute ignorance of the existence of the circumstances which alters the character of the act, or to a belief in its non existence.
    4. Where an act which is in itself wrong, under certain circumstances, criminal/a person who does the wrong act cannot set up as a defence that he was ignorant of the facts which turned the wrong into a crime.
    5. Where a statute makes it penal to do an act under certain circumstances, it is a question upon the wording and object of the particular statute whether the responsibility of ascertaining that the circumstances exist is thrown upon the person who does the act or not. In the former case his knowledge is immaterial.