Attorney-General’s Reference (No. 1 of 1975) [1975] QB 773

Aiding and abetting; procuring; causation


The defendant added alcohol to a motorist’s soft drink without the motorist’s knowledge or consent, despite knowing that the motorist would be driving home soon afterwards. The motorist was stopped by the police on the way home; his blood alcohol concentration was above the prescribed limit, contrary to s.6(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1972 and was thus convicted of the offence. The defendant was charged with aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the commission of the motorist’s offence under s.8 of the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861 but was later acquitted due to no case to answer. The Attorney-General made a reference to the Court of Appeal.


The Attorney-General requested the Court of Appeal to advise him whether the defendant was entitled to the ruling of no case to answer, which was based on the argument that there was no shared intention between the aider and abettor (the defendant) and the perpetrator of the principal offence (the motorist). It was also found that the defendant did not positively encourage the motorist to drive – even though he knew the motorist was about to do so.


The Court held that since the defendant put alcohol into the motorist’s drink surreptitiously, i.e. without the motorist’s knowledge, and this alcoholic drink caused the motorist’s offence (as the motorist would not have driven, had he known that he consumed alcohol), the defendant actually procured the commission of the motorist’s offence. As a result, the ruling of no case to answer was wrong and the defendant was not entitled to this ruling.