Unfulfilled Crimes and Participation in Crimes

AuthorKent Roach
The trend towards broad def‌initions of the cr iminal act exam ined in
the last chapter is a mea ns of expanding the breadt h of the criminal
sanction. The provisions examined in this chapter also cast the net of
crimina l liability broadly to include those who attempt but fail to com-
plete 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 t he
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 tha n a robbery. On the other hand, a person
who assists in the robbery by driving t he 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 al so be guilty of the robbery a s
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 com-
mit the complete crime. The relatively high level of men s rea required
for attempts and parties, however, generally limits these provisions to
those who act with guilt y intent or knowledge. Sentencing discretion
also plays an import ant role in distinguishi ng the various degrees of
culpability caught by the broad def‌initions of criminal attempts and
parties to a crime.
In section 24 of the Criminal Code, Parliament has prohibited at-
tempts to commit crimi nal offences. Any act beyond mere preparation
may be a suff‌icient actus reu s for an attempted crime, even if the act
does not amount to a moral wrong or a social mischief. The counter-
balance to this broad def‌i nition of the actus reus is that the Crown must
prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused acted with t he intent
to commit the complete offence.
In addition to attempts, a person who counsels or solicits t he com-
mission of a crime or is par t of an agreement to commit a crime may also
be guilty of the separ ate crimes of counselling or conspiracy, even though
the complete crime was never committed. These unfulf‌illed crimes are
designed to discourage the comm ission of the complete offence and to
recognize that t he accused had the intent to commit the complete crime.
They are, however, separate offences and, with the exception of con-
spiracy, subject to less punishment than the complete crime.
The law concerning partie s to a crime is in some respect s even
broader and harsher than t he law relating to inchoate crimes such as
attempts, counselling, and conspiracy. Parliament has provided in sec-
tion 21(1)(b) and (c) of the Criminal Code that those who assist t he per-
son committing the actual criminal offence through aiding or abetting
are guilty as pa rties of the same criminal offence as the person who
commits the crime. The person who acts as lookout or drives the get-
away car can be convicted of robber y just as the person who takes t he
money by force. The actus reus is def‌ined to include acts of assist ance
and acts of encouragement but not mere presence. At the same time,
however, the Crown must prove the men s rea that the accused inten-
tionally and knowingly aided or abetted the offence. A person who un-
wittingly delivers a pack age containing a bomb assists in the bombing,
but would not have the intent required to be guilty as an aider or abettor
to the bombing.
Section 21(2) makes an accused who has formed an unl awful pur-
pose with an accomplice responsible for crimes that the accused knew
or ought to have known would be a probable consequence of carry-
ing out their common purpose. This sect ion requires the formation
of an unlawful pur pose and either subjective or objective foresight of
the additional crime s. The fault element of objective foresight has been
found to be unconstitutional when applied to parties ch arged with
murder and attempted murder. Thus, an accused who agreed with an
accomplice to assault a person could not be convicted of murder unless
he knew that it was likely th at the accomplice would actually kill the
victim. A requirement for a high level of me ns rea m ay counterbalance
the broad def‌inition of the prohibited act. At the same time, the courts
Unfulf‌ille d Crimes and Participat ion in Crimes 145
have indicated that the accused who forms an unlawful pur pose does
not necessarily have to desire that unlawful purpose. In addition, ob-
jective foresight of the further cri me is all that is required under section
21(2) for crimes other than murder and attempted murder.
The provisions for attempted crimes and participation in crimes
examined in t his chapter apply to all crimi nal offences in the Code and
constitute important exten sions of criminal liability. For example, the
September 11 terrorists could have been charged with attempted mur-
der or conspiracy to commit murder if they were apprehended before
they boarded the planes. Similarly, those who knowingly and inten-
tionally assisted them in carrying out their plots could be charged as
parties to their offences. At the same time, however, Parliament may
create new crimes th at may apply to conduct that might or might not
constitute an attempt to commit a crime or a form of part icipation in
the commission of the cri me.
New crimes can ser ve as a functional substitute for attempted crimes.
For example, charges of attempted sexual assault or attempted sexual
interference may not be necessar y if a person is guilty of t he crime of
inviting a person under si xteen years of age to engage in sexual touch-
ing or new offences relating to luring ch ildren over the internet.1 New
crimes such as f‌in ancing, facilitating, or instruct ing a person to carry out
activities for the benef‌it of a terrori st group may be broader alternatives
to establishing that a person is guilty of attempting or conspiracy to
commit the crime intended to be committed by the terrorists.2 Cr imes
based on participation in the activities of a terrorist group3 or a crim-
inal organization4 can be used instead of charging a person as a part y
to a crime committed by the group or with an attempt to commit the
crime or with a conspir acy to commit the crime.
The Supreme Court has called a new computer luring offence under
section 172.1 of the Code an “i ncipient or ‘inchoate’ offence, that is,
a preparatory crime that captures otherwi se legal conduct meant to
culminate in the commission of a completed crime.”5 It has stressed
that it was appropriate to require subjective fault in relation to all the
elements of the offence including the age of the child and the pur pose
of facilitating a sex ual offence given the remoteness of the offence to ac-
tual harm.6 Nevertheless, the Court also i ndicated that a person may be
1 Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, ss 152 and 172.1 [Code].
2 Ibid, ss 83.02, 83.03, 83.04, 83.19, 83.21, & 83.22.
3 Ibid, s 83.18.
4 Ibid, s 467.11.
5 R v Legare, 2009 SCC 56 at para 25.
6 Ibid at para 33.

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