L. Participation in Crimes

Author:Kent Roach
Profession:Faculty of Law and Centre of Criminology. University of Toronto

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Often a crime is committed by more than one person. A person who assists in the commission of an offence can be convicted of the same of-fence as the person who actually commits the offence. Section 21 of the Criminal Code provides that people are parties to an offence and guilty of that offence not only if they commit the offence, but also if they aid or abet the commission of the offence. A person would aid a theft if he or she acted as a lookout or caused a distraction for the purpose of allowing another person time to take the property without being caught. A person would abet a crime if he or she encouraged or procured the commission of a crime. A store clerk might, for example, encourage and knowingly allow a customer to shoplift. The clerk could also be guilty of the crime under section 22 of the Criminal Code if she counselled or incited someone to commit a crime even though she did not actually commit the offence herself.

Section 21(2) provides that once two or more people have formed a common intent to carry out an unlawful purpose, they are guilty of every offence that each of them commits provided they knew or ought to have known that the commission of the crime would be a probable consequence of carrying out the unlawful purpose. If Jane and Sam agreed to assault a person and, in carrying out that assault, Jane also steals the victim’s wristwatch, then Sam would be guilty of theft if he knew or ought to have known that it was probable that Jane would also steal when assaulting the victim. If Jane murdered the victim during the assault, Sam would not be guilty of murder, because of the special stigma and penalty that accompany a murder conviction, unless he subjectively knew that it was probable that Jane would also murder the victim they had planned to assault.

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The parties’ provisions in...

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