An accused in a criminal case can be exonerated from any criminal liability when he raises as a defence the mistake of fact in relation to the existence of relevant facts.
The defence of mistake of facts is relevant in the following manner: mistake of facts as to men's rea and as a ground of exculpation from liability of any person in whom the elements of the offence charged was proven.
When the physical elements of the offence were proven to exist at the time of the commission of the offence independently of men's rea, the accused may be exonerated from liability, for a mistake, in this case, is a true defence which is recognized by the court.
A mistake of fact can be pleaded as a defence of the accused at the primary level to refute whatever defence the prosecution has in their case when the accused has alleged that owing to his misunderstanding of the facts, he did not form Mens rea.
When a mistake is pleaded as an independent defence to escape liability from an offence which has been proven, there are two relevant situations for this: when the offence committed relates to actus reus and the mistake of facts pertains to a set of facts if proven true would mitigate the liability of the offender or even exonerate him from any criminal liability.
When the mistake was anchored on the matter of defence such as self-defence, the rule provides that the person’s act must be a reasonable one as well as subjectively reasonable too.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.