R v Campbell [1991] 93 Cr App R 350

Definition of attempt under the Criminal Attempts Act 1981


Tony Campbell (C) arrested after loitering outside a post office, wearing sunglasses and carrying something heavy, after police had been informed that a robbery was going to take place. C had been waiting outside the post office, left, and then returned 30 minutes later, at which point he was arrested and discovered to have in his possession a gun and a demand note. C was convicted of attempted robbery and appealed.


C claimed that while he had intended to rob the post office, he had changed his mind and had not entered the post office, but was arrested before he had a chance to leave. C claimed that he had therefore not moved from the realm of intention, preparation and planning of the offence into the area of implementation of that offence. The issue in question is when the actions of an accused become ‘attempt’ to commit a crime.


A judge must restrict himself to directing a jury to the definition of attempt under the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 (1981 Act). The test for attempt under section 1 of the 1981 Act is 1) whether the defendant intended to commit the crime in question; and 2), the defendant had done an act which was more than merely preparatory to committing the offence. The law of attempt must be applied on a case-by-case basis and it was for the jury to decide whether the defendant’s actions were more than merely preparatory. While C had intended to rob the post office, his acts were indicative of mere preparation and C had not even gone inside the post office where his offence was to be committed, making it doubtful whether he had performed an act which could properly be said to be an attempt. The appeal was allowed.