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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 69614 Find in a Library
Title: Official Misconduct
Journal: Criminal Law Journal  Volume:2  Issue:6  Dated:(1978)  Pages:307-325
Author(s): P Finn
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 19
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Australia
Annotation: This article describes acts which constitute official misconduct under Australian law according to Lord Mansfield's opinions rendered in 1783 in R. v. Bembridge.
Abstract: Contemporary definitions often regard official misconduct as a descriptive formula for a series of interrelated offenses such as bribery or neglect of duty. Official misconduct is a recognized general offense in England, Canada, the United States, and Australia. The acts prohibiting official misconduct deter public servants from behaving in a manner contrary to the duties of their offices. In the influential case of R. v. Benbridge, Lord Mansfield clearly differentiated between official misconduct and the common law offense of cheating. Official misconduct can only be committed by an individual acting at the relevant time as a public officer and relates only to things done or omitted by an officer when acting in an official capacity. Mental elements, such as negligence or malice, can also play a role in determining the offense. Under traditional English law, criminal proceedings for official misconduct were brought by criminal information with the leave of the court rather than indictment. Australian courts recently have indicated that this method will only be permitted in unusual cases. Lord Mansfield's definition of official misconduct encompasses five principles: fraud in office, willful neglect of duty, abuse of official power, excess of official authority, and oppression or the unauthorized intentional infliction of injury upon a person. The legal requirements for establishing criminal liability are detailed for each category and illustrated by case examples. Footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Abuse of authority; Australia; Corruption of public officials; Legal doctrines; Misconduct
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