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Participation Case Summaries

3000 words (12 pages) Case Summary

6th Sep 2021 Case Summary Reference this In-house law team

Jurisdiction / Tag(s): UK Law


R v Butt (1884) 51 LT 607.

The defendant had deliberately given false information to the book-keeper of the company for which he worked, knowing that it would be entered into the accounts. As the book-keeper had innocently entered the wrong information, the defendant was convicted as the principal on a charge of falsifying the accounts.



R v Calhaem [1985] QB 808.

The defendant had hired a man named Zajac to kill a woman. Z testified that after being paid by the defendant he had decided not to carry out the killing, but instead to visit the victim’s house, carrying an unloaded shotgun and a hammer, to act out a charade that would give the appearance that he had tried to kill her. He claimed that when he had stepped inside the front door of the victim’s house, she had screamed and he panicked, hitting her several times with the hammer. The defendant appealed, submitting that, on Z’s evidence there was no causal connection, or no substantial causal connection.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the defendant’s conviction. It was held that the offence of counselling a person to commit an offence is made out if it is proved that there was a counselling, that the principal offence was committed by the person counselled and that the person counselled was acting within the scope of his authority and not accidentally when his mind did not go with his actions. It is not necessary to show that the counselling was a substantial cause of the commission of the offence.

Attorney-General’s Reference (No1 of 1975) [1975] QB 773.

The accused had laced a friend’s drinks with alcohol knowing the friend would shortly afterwards be driving home. The friend was convicted of drunken driving. The accused was charged as an accomplice to this offence, but was acquitted following a successful submission of no case to answer. The trial judge had taken the view that there had to be evidence of some agreement between the accomplice and the principal.

Lord Widgery CJ held that the offence had been procured because, unknown to the driver and without his collaboration, he had been put in a position in which he had committed an offence which he never would have committed otherwise. There was a case to answer and the trial judge should have directed the jury that an offence is committed if it is shown beyond reasonable doubt that the accused knew that his friend was going to drive, and also knew that the ordinary and natural result of the added alcohol would be to bring the friend above the prescribed blood/alcohol limit.


R v Coney (1882) 8 QBD 534.

The two defendants were present at an illegal bare fists prize fight. It did not appear that the defendants took any active part in the management of the fight, or that they said or did anything. It was held to be a misdirection to tell a jury that mere presence at an illegal prize fight was sufficient for  there to be a conviction of the defendant for abetting the illegal fight. It is simply one factor for a jury to take into account.

R v Bland [1988] Crim LR 41.

The defendant lived with her co-accused, R, in one room of a shared house. R was guilty of possession of drugs. The defendant was also charged with possession of a controlled drug because she was living with R. The Court of Appeal quashed her conviction and held that there was no evidence of assistance, active or passive. The fact that she and R lived together in the same room was not sufficient evidence from which the jury could draw such an inference. Assistance, though passive, required more than mere knowledge. For example, it required evidence of encouragement or of some element of control, which was entirely lacking in the case.

R v Clarkson [1971] 1 WLR 1402.

Two soldiers (the defendants) had entered a room following the noise from a disturbance therein. They found some other soldiers raping a woman, and remained on the scene to watch what was happening. They were convicted of abetting the rapes and successfully appealed on the basis that their mere presence alone could not have been sufficient for liability.

It was held that the jury should have been directed that there could only be a conviction if (a) the presence of the defendant at the scene of the crime actually encouraged its commission, and (b) the accused had intended their presence to offer such encouragement.



NCB v Gamble [1959] 1 QB 11.

A lorry driver had filled his lorry with coal at an NCB yard. The weighbridge operator noticed that the lorry was overloaded and informed the driver. The driver said he would take the risk and the operator gave him a weighbridge ticket. The driver was found guilty of using an overloaded lorry on the highway.

The ownership in the coal did not pass until the ticket was handed over and, therefore, the driver could not properly have left the yard without it. It was held that the NCB (as employers of the operator) were liable as accomplices. The operator knew he had a right to prevent the lorry leaving with the coal. It was enough that a positive act of assistance had been voluntarily done with knowledge of the circumstances constituting the offence.

R v Bainbridge [1960] 1 QB 129.

The defendant had supplied some cutting equipment which was subsequently used to break into the Midland Bank in Stoke Newington. He claimed that he had thought the equipment might be used for some illegal purpose, such as breaking up stolen property, but that he had not known that it was to be used to break into a bank. The defendant appealed unsuccessfully against his conviction for being an accomplice to the break-in.

The Court of Appeal held that it was essential to prove that the defendant knew the type of crime that was going to be committed. It was not necessary to show knowledge of the particular date and premises concerned. Lord Parker CJ said that it was not enough that he knew that some kind of illegality was contemplated; but that, if he knew breaking and entering and stealing was intended, it was not necessary to prove that he knew that the Midland Bank, Stoke Newington, was going to be broken into.

Blakely and Sutton v DPP [1991] Crim LR 763.

B was having an affair with T. At a pub, T told B that he intended to go home to his wife. B discussed this with S, who suggested that if they added alcohol to T’s tonic water, T would not drink and drive. B & S intended to tell him before he left to drive home so that he would not go home. Unfortunately, T (the principal) left before they could tell him and was subsequently found to be over the limit when breathalysed. The defendants’ evidence ensured that the principal was given an absolute discharge to the charge of drink-driving.

B & S were subsequently convicted of procuring that offence after the magistrates decided that they had been reckless (within the meaning of Caldwell). The Court of Appeal quashed their convictions and held that objective recklessness was not enough for liability. The court expressed the opinion that only intention should suffice.



R v Baldessare (1930) 22 Cr App R 70.

Two defendants stole a car to go joyriding. The car was driven recklessly, the brakes were violently applied and the head-lights were not lighted. The driver killed another road user and was convicted of his manslaughter. The passenger, B, was convicted as an accomplice to the manslaughter. Lord Hewart CJ stated that the defendant and the driver were responsible for the way in which the car was being driven at the moment of collision.


Davies v DPP [1954] AC 378.

Two gangs of boys had a fight, during which the principal offender (Davies) had killed an opponent with a knife. The defendant was convicted of murder. Lawson, an accomplice was acquitted of being an accomplice to either murder or manslaughter because there was no evidence that L knew that any of his companions had a knife.

Note: Had the victim died from blows to the head from the principal’s fist or boot, then D could have been guilty as an accomplice to manslaughter, because such a mode of attack was contemplated by him, and the death of the victim would have been an unforeseen consequence of its being carried out.

R v Anderson and Morris [1966] 2 QB 110.

M had a fight on the street with W (the victim) because W had just tried to strangle Mrs A. When A arrived and learnt what had happened, he went with M in a car to find W. When W was found, there was a fight in the street. A was seen punching W, with M standing behind A, apparently not taking any definite part in the fight. A then stabbed W to death. M denied knowing that A had a knife. M was convicted of manslaughter and appealed.

It was held by the Court of Appeal that where two persons embark on a joint enterprise, each is liable criminally for acts done in pursuance of the joint enterprise, including unusual consequences; but if one of them goes beyond what has been tacitly agreed as part of the joint enterprise, the other is not liable for the consequence of the unauthorised act. M’s conviction was quashed.

Note: The use of the knife was not agreed upon. However, if W had died from a punch thrown by A, M would have been an accomplice to manslaughter.

R v Mahmood [1994] Crim LR 368.

The defendant was a passenger in a car that had been unlawfully taken and was being driven recklessly in a police chase. The defendant and the driver jumped out of the car, leaving it in gear. The car mounted a pavement and killed a baby in a pram. It was held that if the death had occurred while they were still in the car, the defendant could have been liable for manslaughter because what had occurred would have resulted from a common unlawful enterprise which had culminated in unforeseen consequences. However, there was insufficient evidence “that he contemplated the second type of reckless driving, namely the abandonment” and accordingly there could be no liability for manslaughter.

Question: Was this decision correct?

R v Dunbar [1988] Crim LR 693.

Two men killed a woman and were convicted of murder. The defendant was charged with counselling the offence and convicted of manslaughter. The defendant appealed. She admitted that she may have expressed a wish to see the victim dead, but she had been drinking and taking drugs. She suspected that her co-defendants planned to burgle the victim’s flat and that some violence might be done to the victim, but she did not contemplate the possibility of any serious harm being inflicted.

The Court of Appeal quashed her conviction because of a misdirection by the trial judge. If she was a party to an agreement to kill, she was guilty of murder. If she was a party to an agreement to inflict some harm, short of g.b.h, then she would not be guilty of murder or manslaughter, because the killing could not be within the ambit of the agreement.


Chan Wing-Siu v R [1985] AC 168.

The appellants were members of a gang who had gone to the victim’s house to commit a robbery, arming themselves with knives. During the robbery the victim was stabbed to death by a member of the gang and the defendants were convicted as accomplices to the murder.

The Privy Council dismissed their appeals. It was held that for an accomplice to be guilty of murder it was sufficient for the prosecution to establish that he foresaw death or grievous bodily harm as a possible incident of the common design being carried out. On the other hand, if it was not even contemplated by the accomplice that serious bodily harm would be intentionally inflicted, he is not a party to murder.


R v Becerra and Cooper (1975) 62 Cr App R 212.

The defendants agreed to burgle a house, and B gave C a knife to use in case there was any trouble. When they were disturbed by one of the tenants, B jumped out of the window and ran off, shouting “There’s a bloke coming. Let’s go.” C remained behind and murdered the tenant. B was convicted as an accomplice to the murder despite his contentions that he had withdrawn from the enterprise. In dismissing B’s appeal against conviction, Roskill LJ stated the law as follows:

After a crime has been committed and before an abandonment of the common enterprise can be established there must be something more than a mere mental change of intention and physical change of place by those associates who wish to dissociate themselves from the consequences. What must be done to break the chain of responsibility will depend upon the circumstances of each case. Where practicable and reasonable there must be timely communication of the intention to abandon the common purpose from those who wish to dissociate themselves from the contemplated crime to those who desire to continue in it. “Timely communication” ought to be such communication, verbal or otherwise, that will serve unequivocal notice upon the other party to the common unlawful cause that if he proceeds upon it he does so without the further aid and assistance of those who withdraw. In the present case, the knife having been contemplated for use when it was handed over by B to C, if B wanted to withdraw at that stage he would have to “repent” in some manner vastly different and vastly more effective than merely to say “Come on, let’s go” and go out through the window.

R v Grundy [1977] Crim LR 543.

The defendant had supplied a burglar with information about the premises, the habits of the owner and other useful matters. However, for two weeks before the burglar did so, the defendant had been trying to stop him breaking in. It was held that, following Becerra, the defence of withdrawal should have been left to the jury.

R v Whitefield (1984) 79 Cr App R 36.

Two people burgled a flat while the occupier was away. The defendant, who lived next door, admitted telling the principal offender that the flat would beempty. He also admitted that he had agreed to carry out the burglary with the principal, but that he had later changed his mind. W was present in his flat the night the burglary was committed. He heard the flat being broken into but did nothing to prevent the offence. At his trial for burglary, W unsuccessfully submitted that he had withdrawn from the common enterprise to burgle the adjoining flat (by informing the principal that he did not wish to take part in it, and by refusing to allow him access to his flat and balcony for the purpose of effecting entry to his neighbour’s flat).

The Court of Appeal quashed the conviction. There was evidence that W had served unequivocal notice on the principal that, if he proceeded with the burglary they had planned together, he would do so without W’s aid or assistance. The jury should have been told that, if they accepted the evidence, that was a defence.


R v Bourne (1952) 36 Cr App R 1251.

The defendant had terrorised his wife into committing buggery with a dog. He was convicted of aiding and abetting his wife to commit buggery with a dog. Lord Goddard CJ stated that if the woman had been charged herself with committing the offence, she could have pleaded duress, which would have shown that she had no mens rea. However, if an act of buggery is committed, the crime is committed.

The evidence was that the defendant had caused his wife to have connection with a dog and was therefore guilty.

R v Cogan and Leak [1976] QB 217.

L persuaded C to have sexual intercourse with Mrs L, telling him that she liked being forced to have sex against her will, and that if she struggled it was merely evidence of her enjoyment. C was convicted of rape but appealed successfully against his conviction on the basis that he had honestly thought she was consenting to sexual intercourse. L appealed against his conviction for aiding and abetting the rape, on the basis that if the principal had been acquitted, there was no offence to which he could have been an accomplice.

In dismissing the appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the actus reus of rape had been committed by C in that Mrs L had been forced to submit to sexual intercourse without her consent. L had known that she was not consenting, and thus had the necessary mens rea to be an accomplice. Alternatively, the court was willing to view C as an innocent agent through whom L had committed the offence of rape.

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