R v Bainbridge [1960] 1 QB 129

Accessory before the fact with knowledge of crime


The defendant purchased oxygen-cutting equipment. Weeks later, the equipment was used in a bank break-in and was left behind by the thieves. The defendant was convicted as an accessory before the fact. The conviction was founded upon the argument that the defendant purchased the equipment on behalf of the thieves and knew that it was to be used for breaking in to premises. The defendant appealed.


The defendant argued that even though he had suspected that the equipment might be wanted for some illegal purpose, he denied knowing actually what it would be used for. He claimed that the trial judge had failed to properly direct the jury in terms of what needs to be established in order to be able to convict someone of being accessory before the fact.


The Court took the view that the trial judge had not erred in his directions to the jury. The Court held that it was sufficient to prove that the defendant knew about the thieves’ general intention to commit a crime, similar in type to the one subsequently actually committed. If, equipped with such knowledge, the defendant still did something to help in the commission of the crime (e.g. bought equipment he knew might be used in committing the crime like in the present case), he can be found guilty of being an accessory before the fact. In other words, the defendant does not need to know the specific time and date and location of the principal offence in advance in order to be found guilty of being an accessory before the fact. The defendant’s conviction was thus upheld.