Examples include the encouragement to carry out the offence by calling out or shouting to the principal offender at the scene of the crime.

Under Sec 8 of the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861  'Whosoever shall aid, abet, counsel, or procure the commission of [any indictable offence], whether the same be [an offence] at common law or by virtue of any Act passed or to be passed, shall be liable to be tried, indicted, and punished as a principal offender.'  

In Attorney General’s Reference (No.1 0f 1975) the Court of Appeal held that each of the four words, aid, abet, counsel and procure, had a separate meaning.


Abetting refers to behaviour which could be said to incite or encourage an offence at the time of the offence.  Examples might include the encouragement to carry out the offence by calling out or shouting to the principal offender at the scene of the crime.  In Wilcox v Jeffery (1951)  Wilcox, the publisher of a music magazine went to a concert where a jazz musician named Hawkins was playing. Hawkins was American and should not have been in the country working as his visa did not allow him to work in England. Wilcox had bought a ticket to the concert, applauded the music and wrote about the performance. He was subsequently arrested for aiding and abetting Hawkins' crime.  Wilcox had nothing to do with Hawkins getting into the country or arranging the concert but he was convicted. On appeal the Appellate Court found that the concert had been illegal and Wilcox had supported the concert by attending, and by reviewing the concert in his magazine, he had sold magazines and benefited from the concert and had therefore aided and abetted the crime. If he had gone to the concert to condemn the show and hassle Hawkins to leave the stage he would not have been guilty of aiding and abetting.


There has to be an intention to encourage, mere presence can not usually be enough. In Bland (1988) the defendant had unwittingly allowed his property to be used by a drug dealer to store drugs. The court quashed his conviction because in that case they decided a more active involvement was necessary than just living with the dealer and having some knowledge of what was going on at the time.


Sometimes passive presence is enough for secondary participation as in Tuck v Robson (1970) when the pub landlord allowed his customers to remain in the pub drinking after hours. Even though he did not serve the drinks to them, he was convicted of abetting breaches of the licensing laws as it was his duty to tell his customers to leave the premises at closing time.

Secondary liability gives the prosecution the opportunity to proceed against the principal offender who committed the crime and against others who were involved in the commission of the offence. Secondary liability is a common law doctrine.



Liability of Secondary Parties





Before the crime



At the time of the crime







Secondary Party

Joint Enterprise

Joint Principals

Actus Reus For Secondary Participation

Mens Rea For Secondary Participation

Man fined £2,000 for aiding and abetting illegal cockling in Dee ...

Court orders retrial in Massereene barracks murders case | UK news

Related Items

The items below list this as being related in some way.

Amazon's recommended Books

RSS Feeds