Beyond acts, circumstances and results: A fourth ulterior element

Senior Common Room at Birmingham Law School
Wednesday 11 January 2012 (12:30-14:00)

If you wish to attend please contact Dr Anastasia Vakulenko at

Staff Research Seminar: Dr. John Child (Senior Lecturer, Oxford Brookes University)


Element analysis, a technique that separates offences into acts, circumstances and results, has become increasing popular within criminal law scholarship across the common law world (most recently being adopted as a structure for the Irish Draft Criminal Code). However, despite the undoubted merits of element analysis, not least in the field of general inchoate offences, it has always attracted (and still attracts) considerable criticism. Principally this criticism relates to the difficulty in objectively distinguishing elements from one another, with precise definitions often lacking.

This paper contends that much of the current criticism can be avoided, and the full advantages of element analysis only realised, if a fourth element (the ulterior fault element) is added. This is because ulterior fault is an offence element that does not attach to a person’s actions, the objective circumstances surrounding those actions, or the causal results of those actions. They are, by definition, ulterior.

By accepting a fourth element of 'ulterior fault' it is contended that we can make better sense of the current law, apply offences like those within the Serious Crime Act more accurately, as well as providing a reasoned and consistent analysis of infinite or double inchoate liability.

Discussant: Dr Adrian Hunt 



  • Staff Research Seminars take place at 1pm in the Senior or Junior Common Room, Birmingham Law School
  • A sandwich lunch and a glass of wine will be provided from 12:30 pm
  • Postgraduate students and academic staff are welcome to attend.

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