R v JF Alford Transport Ltd; R v James Alford; R v Peter Alex Payne [1997] 2 Cr App R 326

Divers pleading guilty; Whether company and managers positively encouraged drivers’ illegal acts


The first defendant was a lorry operator transport company; the second defendant was its managing director while the third was the transport manager. The police seized company records at the company’s premises including tachograph records and timesheets showing extensive discrepancies. The individual drivers responsible pleaded guilty to offences such as maing a false entry on the tachograph record (s. 99(5) of the Transport Act 1968). The defendants were in turn convicted of aiding and abbeting the drivers’ offences. They appealed.


The defendants argued that the trial judge erred in directing the jury that aiding and abetting (under s.8 of the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861) was sufficiently established by showing passive acquiescence.


The Court decided to allow the defendants’ appeals. It held that in the case of aiding and abetting, knowledge of the principal offence had to go hand in hand with the ability to control the offender’s actions and the deliberate decision not to do so. In other words, it should have been proved that each defendant intended to do the acts of which they knew were able to assist or encourage the commission of the crime; but did not need to have intended that commission of the principal crime itself. For instance, simply turning a blind eye to avoid confrontation with the drivers would have been no defence. However, in the present case, there was not enough evidence to show that the defendants even knew about the principal offence. Consequently, the convictions had to be quashed.