Inchoate Offences



  •      1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 states the following:

“If, with intent to commit an offence to which this section applies, a person does an act which is more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offence, he is guilty of attempting to commit the offence”.



What about omission?


  •      An attempt can be committed by omission. For example, D tried to starve a child. However, the child survives. Therefore, D will be liable for attempted murder.


Actus Reus of Attempts

  •       An act which is more than merely preparatory to the commission of an indictable offence. (Three-stage test)


1) Last act test:

2) Series of Act test

3) Criminal Attempts Act 1981 test


Impossible Attempts


  •     ‘Legal impossibility’ – the defendant believes their action amounts to a crime, when it does not = no attempt.


  •      ‘Factual impossibility’ – the defendant tries to commit a crime through inadequate/insufficient means (e.g. a gun that is not loaded) = always an offence. – s.1(2) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 states the following:



Mens Rea of Attempts


  •      1(1) – The intention to commit the ‘full offence’




  •      Where two or more people agree to commit an offence


Statutory conspiracy – this is conspiracy to commit any offence


  •      1 Criminal Law Act 1977 (as amended by section 5 of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981):



Actus Reus of statutory conspiracy


  •      It must be proved that the parties have reached an agreement to a course of conduct:


Who cannot be parties to a conspiracy?


  •      An agreement only between husband and wife or civil partners is not a conspiracy (2(2)(a) Criminal Law Act 1977)



Mens Rea of statutory conspiracy


  •      s.1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 states the following: the parties intend to do the act, which is required for the offence, and intend or know that the circumstances within the actus reus exist.


Derivative and Inchoate liability


Inchoate liability = liability for the encouragement. It does not matter whether P does kill V (Serious Crime Act 2007)


Derivative liability = D is only liable if P does kill V (Accessories and Abettors Act 1861) – Please see the ‘Parties to a crime’ topic for derivative liability.



Serious Crime Act 2007


Inchoate offences: sections 44-50


  • s.44 intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence
  • s.45 encouraging or assisting an offence believing it will be committed
  • s.46 encouraging or assisting offences believing one or more will be committed.
  • s.47 on mens rea


Relevant case law:


R v Gullefer [1987] Crim LR 195


R v Campbell [1991] 93 Cr App R 350


R v Geddes [1996] Crim LR 894


R v Tosti [1997] Crim LR 746


R v Dagnall [2003] EWCA Crim 2441


Anderton v Ryan (1985) A.C. 560


Walker [1962] Crim LR 458


Whybrow (1951) 35 Cr App r 141


R v Khan [1990]