Let’s have a look, shall we?
There are three main incomplete offences that you will be interested in for the sake of a crime novel.
Now, these can be a little complicated (as I showed you with the offence of murder, you have to think of mens rea and actus reas as well as all the points to prove of the offence and with these offences there are different parts to consider) so what I am going to do is attempt to break it down into as basic a form as I possibly can. After all, I’m not teaching you law, I am simply trying to help make a crime novel more realistic if that is what you want.
Again, as with the previous two offences, this one is common law. (Not in statute.)
It is an offence unlawfully to incite another to commit an offence.
Incitement is encouraging or pressurising someone to commit an offence. The other person need not commit the offence for the incitement to be fulfilled. Neither do they need to form the intention. Though if they do go on to commit the offence then the person who incited them to commit said act will be a secondary party.
Now if the act was murder, incitement to murder can be charged under Section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
This one is not common law and the law states;
(1) Subject to the following provisions of this Part of this Act, if a person agrees with any other person or persons that a course of conduct will be pursued which, if the agreement is carried out in accordance with their intentions, either —
(a) will necessarily amount to or involve the commission of any offence or offences by one or more of the parties to the agreement; or
(b) would do so but for the existence of facts which render the commission of the offence or any of the offences impossible,
he is guilty of conspiracy to commit the offence or offences in question.
Sound complicated? As a trainee police officer we had to learn all the offence wording for many many crimes. It was hard work! But if you look at it properly it does make sense. Just read through it and make sure you can see where you have to have an “and” or an “or” for the offence to work.
For there to be a conspiracy there must be an agreement, therefore the offence needs at least two people involved and each person must be aware of the overall common goal. If one conspirator enters into a different agreement with different people, each agreement is a separate conspiracy.
You can convict a conspirator if you don’t know who the other person is.
You can’t convict if the other person is:
- their spouse or civil partner
- a child under 10
- the intended victim
Though a husband and wife can both be convicted if they conspire together with a third party.
Section 1(1) of the Act creates the offence of attempt:
(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.
The main point to prove within this offence is “More than merely preparatory“.
A defendant’s actions must be shown to have gone beyond mere preparation towards the commission of the substantive offence. So, for instance, buying a tin of paint to throw over a shop window is not an attempt. But throwing it over a window that has an anti-paint layer on and the paint slides off like water is more than merely preparatory, an attempt was made, it just wasn’t successful. There is no specific formula for working out what is and what is not more than merely preparatory.
To prove an attempt you must show an intention to commit the substantive offence. For instance, for murder you still need the intent (that you do with the whole completed offence) to kill.
I know these can be a little complicated but I hope they have given you a little something to play with when you are writing.
You can find all other posts in this series HERE.
Rebecca Bradley is a retired UK police detective with over 15 years UK policing experience. Seven of those years were in uniform and the rest in a specialist investigative department where She handled multiple, serious and complex investigations. She is now a crime writer and offers a police procedural fact-checking service, available to all crime writers setting their work in England or Wales.
Please see THIS POST for further details.
Join my Writing Crime group. If you sign up to the group you will receive a police MG11 statement (a genuine statement paper – I found online) which I have written a statement on, using an incident that occurs at the end of my novella, Three Weeks Dead. So, it’s a genuine statement, authentically written by an ex-detective.
What else will you receive in this group?
Every month I will send you, either;
- Another document I have completed.
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All of these can be printed out and kept in a folder and your folder will grow with policing information that you, as writers, can use, or ignore, as you wish. It is fiction, but having the information means you can make an informed decision.
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