Accessories and Abettors Act 1861
|Long title||An Act to consolidate and amend the Statute Law of England and Ireland relating to Accessories to and Abettors of indictable Offences.|
|Chapter||24 & 25 Vict. c.94|
|Territorial extent||England and Wales,
Republic of Ireland
|Royal Assent||6 August 1861|
|Commencement||1 November 1861|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Revised text of statute as amended|
The Accessories and Abettors Act 1861 (24 & 25 Vict. c.98) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (as it then was). It consolidated provisions in English criminal law related to accomplices from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act. For the most part these provisions were, according to the draftsman of the Act, incorporated with little or no variation in their phraseology. It is one of a group of Acts sometimes referred to as the criminal law consolidation Acts 1861. It was passed with the object of simplifying the law. It collects the scattered provisions on the subject contained in Peel's Acts (and the equivalent Irish Acts), incorporating subsequent statutes.
Provisions still in force
Section 8 of the Act, as amended, reads:
Whosoever shall aid, abet, counsel, or procure the commission of any indictable offence, whether the same be an offence at common law or by virtue of any Act passed or to be passed, shall be liable to be tried, indicted, and punished as a principal offender.
Section 10 states that the Act does not apply to Scotland.
In AG's Reference (No 1 of 1975) (1975) QB 773, Lord Chief Justice Widgery stated that the words in section 8 should be given their ordinary meaning.
- The natural meaning of "to aid" is to "give help, support or assistance to" and it will generally although not necessarily take place at the scene of the crime. It is not necessary to prove that there was any agreement between the principal and the alleged accessory, nor is there a need to prove a causative link between the aid and the commission of the offence by the principal.
- The natural meaning of "to abet" is "to incite, instigate or encourage" and this can only be committed by an accessory who is present when the crime is committed. This does imply either an express or implied agreement between the parties although there is no need to prove any causative link between what the abettor did and the commission of the offence.
- "To counsel" is "to encourage" and most usually covers advice, information, encouragement or the supply of equipment before the commission of a crime. It implies agreement with the principal. In R v Clarkson (1971) 3 AER 344, the defendant merely watched while fellow soldiers raped a woman in their barracks in Germany. Counselling or advising must have an effect on the mind of the principal to constitute the necessary encouragement in fact, so Clarkson was found not guilty. No causative link between the counselling and the commission of the full offence is required so long as the offence actually committed was within the scope of the counselling. In R v Calhaem (1985) 2 AER 266, the defendant paid a private detective to murder a woman and was charged with counselling or procuring the murder. It was held that the offence actually committed must be within the scope of the counselling, i.e., the principal does not deliberately depart from the plan. The detective merely intended to frighten the woman but did actually hit her with a hammer. If, however, the accessory does not specify what offence is to be committed, but leaves it to the principal to decide what offence is to be committed, the accessory will be liable.
- "To procure" means "to produce by endeavour, by setting out to see that it happens and taking the appropriate steps to produce that happening". The principal can be entirely "innocent" of the procurer's acts so long as there is proof of a causal link between the procuring and the commission of the offence by the principal offender, e.g., as in AG’s Reference (No 1) (1975) 2 AER 684, spiking a drink procures a drunk-driving offence.
The Act does not apply to summary offences, but section 44(1) of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 is to the like effect:
A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the commission by another person of a summary offence shall be guilty of the like offence...
Sections 1 to 7 and 9 of this Act were repealed for England and Wales by section 10(2) of, and Part III of Schedule 3 to, the Criminal Law Act 1967. They were repealed for Northern Ireland by section 15(2) of, and Part II of Schedule 2 to, the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967.
Section 11 was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1892.
- R v Betts and Ridley (1930) 22 Cr App R 148, a landmark case which established that an accessory need not be present when the crime is committed to be regarded as such
- Aiding and abetting, a very similar law in the United States
- R v Gnango  UKSC 59 (14 December 2011), a case in which the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom held that a person could be an accessory to their own murder.
- This short title was conferred by the Short Titles Act 1896, section 1 and the first schedule.
- The Accessories and Abettors Act 1861, section 11
- Greaves. The Criminal Law Consolidation and Amendment Acts (1861) pp. 3-4
- James Edward Davis. The Criminal Law Consolidation Statutes of the 24 & 25 of Victoria, Chapters 94 to 100: Edited with Notes, Critical and Explanatory. Butterworths. 1861. Page vii.
- The Accessories and Abettors Act 1861, as amended from the National Archives
- The Accessories and Abettors Act 1861, as originally enacted from the National Archives