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9.3 Parties to Crime Lecture – Hands on Examples

This is an unusual area for you to be tested solely on in an exam under a problem style question and will usually instead be bought up alongside another topic. It is vital that you can identify the parties and the role they play in the crime but in order to do that you will need to complete the question alongside the wider context of a different criminal offence. To gain practice in this area different scenarios have been set out and the actus reus and mens rea of any relevant offences have been provided for you.

Scenario 1

Murder

Actus reus: The unlawful killing of a human being under the queen’s peace

Mens rea: The intention to kill

Sam is working out the back of Moonbucks, a popular coffee shop, when his his ex-wife Linda comes in with her new boyfriend Jim. Sam harbours a lot of hatred towards Linda since he caught her cheating on him with another man, whereupon she ended their marriage. Sam knows that Linda suffers from a heart condition that means she is entirely intolerant to caffeine, the consumption of which could prove fatal. Sam tells Jane, a fellow barista, that the decaf machine has broken so he has put the decaf beans into the main machine. This is untrue and subsequently the coffee the Jane pours is actually a caffeinated coffee. Linda drinks this and suffers a fatal heart attack and dies.

Identify the liability of the parties.

Jane: Innocent agent. Jane completes the act of giving Linda the deadly coffee but has no knowledge of this and does not hold the requisite mens rea of intention to kill.

Sam: Principal Offender. He holds the mens rea for murder and brings about the actus reus by utilising Jane to carry out the wrong doing under the misapprehension.

Scenario 2

Theft

Actus reus: Appropriation of property belonging to another

Mens rea: Dishonesty, with an intention to permanently deprive another the property

Alf and Phoebe decide really want to buy the latest xbox but cannot afford the price tag. The security at the game shop is very strong so risking taking an xbox from the store is too high. The two of them get together and decide instead to steal the money from handbags in the street. They are walking past a cafe together when they see two old ladies sitting in the window with their bags open and in view. They walk in and chat with the ladies and whilst distracted both place a hand on one of the bags and together pick it up and remove it from the shop. Once outside they empty the bag and are delighted to find that the lady had just been to collect her pension for that week and her purse is full of cash.

Identify the liability of the parties.

Alf and Pheobe joint enterprise liability as they have together planned and executed the offence of theft. Both are liable as joint principal offenders as they both individually hold the actus reus and mens rea of theft.

Scenario 3

Grievous bodily harm

Actus reus: Wounds or inflicts grievous bodily harm

Mens rea: Intention to cause grievous bodily harm

Nb. Under s.18 or s.20 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 grievous bodily harm is an indictable offence.

James and Niall go over to Niall’s ex-girlfriend, Sophie’s house. Sophie is Harry’s sister and Harry is good friends with Niall. Unbeknown to James, Niall has been to visit Harry and asked him to lend him his key for Sophie’s house as he needs to collect some things he left over there before they broke up. Harry believes that Niall actually wants the key so he can steal from Sophie but nonetheless obliges and hands it over. When they arrive at the house Sophie won’t come down to speak with them. The bedroom light is on and the boys can hear voices. James tells Niall to go inside and sort out whoever it is that has his hands on Sophie. He goes into his pocket and pulls out a knife, handing it to Niall saying “that’ll help”. Niall then bangs on the door one last time before unlocking it and going upstairs. He stabs Sophie’s boyfriend in the arm causing severe bleeding.

Niall

  • Principal offender as he holds both the actus reus and mens rea for the offence of GBH which is committed

James

  • Indictable principal offence so possible secondary liability under s.8 of the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861.
  • Actus reus
  • An offence
  • Which is aided, abetted, counselled or procured
  • Causation

-The offence of GBH or wounding occurs under s.18 OAPA 1861. This is the principal offence.

-The offence is abetted by James who encourages the commission of the grievous bodily harm.

-There is a sufficient link between James’ encouragement and handing over of the knife and Niall’s decision to carry out the offence.

  • Mens rea
  • Knowledge that the actions and circumstances constituting a criminal offence existed
  • Knowledge that the acts undertaken were capable of encouraging of assisting

-Discuss whether James’ lack of knowledge regarding Niall’s possession of the key affects this in any way and conclude critically. There is no right or wrong answer as long as this is argued persuasively with legal support.

  • Conclude as to liability as a secondary party on the basis of whether the mens rea was held to exist.

Harry

  • Indictable principal offence so possible secondary liability under s.8 of the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861.
  • Actus reus
  • An offence
  • Which is aided, abetted, counselled or procured
  • Causation

-Offence of GBH or wounding occurs is the offence under s.18 OAPA 1861. This is the principal   offence.

-This offence is aided by Harry providing Niall with the key to the house.

-Causation is established by showing a link between the provision of the key and the commission of the offence. Applying Calhem without providing the key Niall would not have got inside so this is sufficient.

  • Mens Rea
  • Knowledge that the actions and circumstances constituting a criminal offence existed
  • Knowledge that the acts undertaken were capable of encouraging of assisting

-Applying Bainbridge, Harry does not have knowledge of the specific circumstances. Applying DPP for Northern Ireland v Maxwell, GBH and burglary are not within the same range of offences of this element of the mens rea is not satisfied.

  • Accordingly, there is no mens reaso no secondary liability arises in relation to Harry’s actions.

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