9.1 Parties to Crime - Introduction

Welcome to the ninth topic in this module guide - Parties to Crime! Often more than one criminal defendant plays a role in the commission of a crime. Defendants who work together with a shared criminal purpose are seen to be acting with complicity. In instances where participation and criminal conduct varies among the defendants, the issue arises as to who is to be held responsible for which crime, and indeed to what degree they should be held responsible.

In law, the different roles that people can play in the commission of an offence can be broken down into; the principal offender (who is the main perpetrator of the offence), joint principals (who contribute to the actus reus by committing their own independent act), innocent agents (who are unknowingly utilised by the principal to carry out the actus reus) and secondary parties (who are more commonly described as accomplices or accessories to the crime).

Goals for this section:

  • To be able to identify in which circumstances when a person will be held to be a party to a crime.
  • To appreciate the charging and sentencing guidelines for the offence, mentioned above.

Objectives for this section:

  • To be able to understand situations which would give rise to a joint enterprise.
  • To appreciate when an innocent agent may be able to raise a defence which negates his actus reus.
  • To be able to analyse and evaluate the significant developments that joint enterprise has undertaken in recent months, especially with regards to parasitic accessorial liability.
  • To be able to analyse and evaluate the nuances of being a party to a crime, as required in an examination.

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