Unfulfilled crimes and participation in crimes

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

Page 124

The trend towards broad definitions of the criminal act examined in the last chapter is a means of expanding the breadth of the criminal sanction. The provisions examined in this chapter also cast the net of criminal liability broadly to include those who attempt but fail to complete a crime; those who encourage or plan the commission of a crime; and those who assist others to commit a crime.

A person who goes beyond mere preparation to rob a bank, with the intent to commit the robbery, can be convicted of attempted robbery, even though no robbery took place and it may have been impossible for the complete crime to ever occur. An attempted robbery is, however, subject to less punishment than a robbery. On the other hand, a person who assists in the robbery by driving the getaway car can be convicted of being a party to the robbery by aiding the robbery, even though he or she never took the property with force. Similarly, a bank teller who helped the robber plan the heist might also be guilty of the robbery as a person who abets the crime. The provisions governing attempts and parties to a crime will be considered separately, but they are united in imposing the criminal sanction on those who do not actually commit the complete crime. The relatively high level of mens rea required for attempts and parties, however, generally limits these provisions to those who act with guilty intent or knowledge. Sentencing discretion also plays an important role in distinguishing the various degrees of culpability caught by the broad definitions of criminal attempts and parties to a crime.

Page 125

In section 24 of the Criminal Code, Parliament has prohibited attempts to commit criminal offences. Any act beyond mere preparation may be a sufficient actus reus for an attempted crime, even if the act does not amount to a moral wrong or a social mischief. The counterbalance to this broad definition of the actus reus is that the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused acted with the intent to commit the complete offence. In addition to attempts, a person who counsels or solicits the commission of a crime or is part of an agreement to commit a crime may also be guilty of the separate crimes of counselling or conspiracy, even though the complete crime was never committed. These unfulfilled crimes are designed to discourage the commission of the complete offence and to recognize that the accused had the intent to commit the complete...

To continue reading