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Inchoate Offences Notes

Irish BCL Notes > Irish Criminal Law Notes

This is an extract of our Inchoate Offences document, which we sell as part of our Irish Criminal Law Notes collection written by the top tier of Trinity College Dublin students.

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Attempts R v Eagleton (CCR 1854) Facts

* The accused had a contract to supply loaves of bread to the homeless of a parish and was charged with attempting to defraud the guardians by providing loaves of less than the contracted weight. Issue

* Attempts - Actus Reus Judgment (Parke B)

* The actus reus of an attempt consists of acts which are immediately connected with the offence - in this case, the accused's delivery of the vouchers to the relevant officer was the last act required in order for him to receive the money and defraud the union, thus he was guilty of attempt. Attorney General v Thornton (CCA 1950) Facts

* The accused was charged with unlawfully attempting to procure a poison, knowing it was to be used to produce the miscarriage of a girl.

* This charge was brought on the basis that, in a meeting with the girl's doctor he made inquiries about a drug called ergot, "wasn't there some drug called ergot?" Issue

* Attempts - Actus Reus Judgment (Haugh J)

* The evidence in this case is too vague and uncertain to prove that the accused intended to use or have the drug used to procure an abortion - there is room for a reasonable doubt that the statement was not the actus reus of an attempt i.e. that it was in fact a mere show of intention or act of preparation. Attorney General v O'Sullivan (SC 1963) Facts

* The accused was a midwife who was charged with attempting to obtain money by false pretences with intent to defraud.

* She had submitted forms signifying that she had attended births which she had in fact not attended.

* The accused had to have been present at twenty five births in order to begin receiving per-birth fees. Issue

* Attempts - Actus Reus Judgment

* O Dalaigh CJ (concurring)

* Lavery J (dissenting)

* Walsh J (concurring)

* The question is whether the forms should be considered a mere preparation for the offence or acts sufficiently proximate to amount to attempts.

* Then ultimate impossibility of an attempted crime is not a defence.




An act can be proximate if it is the first of a series of similar acts intended to result cumulatively in the crime. it can not be said that the preparation of one form is any less proximate than another because they were all aimed at the same object. Thus each false claim put in is an act sufficient to constitute an attempt. DPP v Douglas & Hayes (CCA 1984)


* The defendants were charged of shooting with intent to commit murder.

* They appealed on the basis that the trial judge had given the jury the wrong instructions in regard the mens rea of the offence. Issue

* Attempts - Mens Rea Judgment (McWilliam J)

* This attempt requires an actual intention to commit the crime of murder, i.e. killing, not merely serious injury. R v Khan (CA 1990) Facts

* The accused was charged with attempted rape and claimed that the necessary mental element as regards consent was intent. Issue

* Attempts - Mens Rea Judgment (Russell LJ)

* The actual crime of rape requires knowledge of or recklessness in regard to the victim's consent.

* As the only difference between a rape and an attempted rape is the actual success of the act, there is no reason that the mens rea should be any different. Attorney General's Reference No 3 of 1992 Facts

* The accused threw a petrol bomb at a number of people in a car, which missed and hit a wall.

* The accused was charged with attempted aggravated arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered. Issue

* Attempts - Mens Rea Judgment

* The competed offence would consist of damage to property by the accused coupled with recklessness as to whether that property or any other property were damaged and recklessness as to whether life would thereby be endangered.

* The law of attempts is concerned with the intent to commit and offence - however, in this case, where the accused intended to damage property while his state of mind was that of recklessness in regard danger to life, there is no reason why there should not be a conviction for attempt.


That said, if the throwing was not intended to result in damage to property, then an element of the offence was missing - to ground liability for attempts, the accused must be shown to have intended to supply the missing element of the attempt. Conspiracy Yip Chiu-Cheung v R (PC 1994)


* The plaintiff was convicted of conspiracy to export drugs after an American drug enforcement agent and another individual made an arrangement with him to do so.

* Separate verdicts were not delivered as to whether the accused had conspired with the Agent, the other individual, or both. Issue

* Conspiracy Judgment (Lord Griffiths)

* The mens rea for conspiracy is an intention to commit the crime in question.

* An undercover agent, policman etc. who infiltrates a criminal group and agrees to engage in crime with the intent of preventing it, lacks the requisite mens rea.

* In this case however, the agent did intend to commit the offence, even if it was with the best of motives.

* Thus the agent was a co-conspirator and the accused had the requisite mens rea for conspiracy. People v Keane (CCA 1975) Facts

* The accused was convicted in the Special Criminal Court of conspiracy to cause explosions with explosive substances. Issue

* Conspiracy Judgment (Walsh J)

* The evidence establishes that M and L was in possession of explosives, that the accused had a notebook with instructions for the making of bombs and that the fingerprints of the accused were on the containers of components of the bomb - this raises an inference that the accused was aware of and participant in the making of the explosives which is enough to ground a conviction for conspiracy even if the accused had not met either of his co-conspirators.

* Where a substantive offence can be established a prosecution should not be brought for conspiracy

* The liability of a conspirator is limited to the common purpose while he remains in it. Scott v Metropolitan Police Commissioner (HoL 1974) Facts

* The plaintiff agreed with the employees of a cinema to copy films for him to distribute them on a commercial scale. Issue

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