Criminal Attempts Act 1981: What It Means

Topics: Criminal law, Common law, Case law Pages: 6 (2352 words) Published: March 10, 2006
Criminal Attempts Act 1981 s.1(1);
‘‘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''

‘‘Attempt implies purpose. To say that ‘D' is attempting to do something means that he is acting with the purpose of accomplishing that which he is said to be attempting.''# This quote sums up the need for there to be a law of attempts in that even though for whatever reason the accomplice has failed to complete the full criminal offence of whichever crime he has wholeheartedly attempted to commit he had the appropriate Mens Rea, the intention, his purpose, his aim was to commit the full criminal offence emphasising the need for the law of attempts to exist, to deter, prevent and punish would be full offenders in their criminal ways.

Liability for attempts in English criminal law requires its own special Mens Rea and Actus Rea elements, the accused to be liable under the law of attempt must possess both such elements ‘‘the conduct of the accused and his state of mind at the time of that conduct.''# On the issue of Attempts one may argue however ‘‘that intent (mens rea) is the essential ingredient of the offence of attempt''# evident in s. 1(1) CAA 1981 ‘‘If, with intent to commit an offence..''# The other requirement of section 1(1) is that the accused is to have done something or taken certain steps which were ..‘‘more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offence..''# Section 1(1) leads to the arising questions of proving intent and the question of what is meant by more than merely preparatory? What conduct or acts of an accused are seen as mere preparations excluding liability for the offence of attempt? And does the threshold of the meaning of mere preparations vary with the nature of the attempted offence? The obvious but important underlying issue of crimes of attempt is that the actual full completed crime has not actually taken place, something is missing, for whatever reason the crime attempted was not completed.

In 1951 the case of Whybrow# involving the commission of attempted murder by electrocution of a wife by her husband as she took a bath the Court of Appeal outlined the importance and necessity of proving an intention to kill stating that while an intention to kill would suffice for the completed crime of murder, for attempted murder an intention to kill was necessary. This mens rea, guilty mind, intention of the accused to ‘‘bring about in as far as it lies within the accuser's power, the commission of the offence which it is alleged the accused attempted to commit''#has been upheld by section 1(1) of the 1981 Act as Stuart-Smith J notably remarked ‘‘we see no reason why the passing of the 1981 Act should have altered the law as to what is meant by the word 'intent.' '' # The element of intent in the Law of Attempts is that it must be shown that the accused intended to achieve that what was missing from the full offence for example; say there were two men, man A with a fully loaded gun pointing it at the head of man B and as A pulled the trigger the barrel got stuck so the gun wouldn't fire, it is clear what the aims of A were and it was perhaps by chance or whatever reason the gun didn't shoot that B wasn't shot in the head and murdered, this sort of scenario is pretty clear as to the intentions of A what was missing was the completion of the crime of murder so why should A benefit from this spout of luck which was outside his control, his aim was to shoot B in the head, he had the intention, the mens rea. In accordance with s.1 (1) proving the intention to complete the full offence is essential, ‘'intention must be proved as to these missing elements.''#

Whilst the element of intention is a key feature in the Law of Attempts, before the enactment of this statute the common law put its effort into demonstrating how much action is...
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