CRIMINAL LAW 1.7 PARTIES TO AN OFFENCE
In Nigeria, parties to an offence are divided into;
- Principal offenders. Section 7.
- Accessory after the fact. Section 10.
This distinction is unlike that of England which divides them into principal in first and second degrees.
Section 7 of the Criminal Code provides;
- 7. When an offence is committed, each of the following persons are deemed to have taken part;
(a) Every person who actually does the act or makes the omission which constitutes the offence;
(b) Every person who does or omits to do any act for the purpose of enabling or aiding another person to commit the offence;
(c) Every person who aids another person in committing the offence;
(d) Any person who counsels or procures any other person to commit the offence.
As such, any of the principal offenders can be charged for having actually committed the offence. The rationale behind this being that; had they not assisted, there might have been no offence. As such, the principle of the Walter V Long case has been modified.
Section 7 of the Criminal Code should be read with Section 24- R V Solomon (England’s Section 23) only Section 8 and 9 of the Criminal Code that can be implied to intend the exclusion of the operation of Section 24.
As such it must be proved that the party intended the commission of the offence. An innocent lender of a tool used for the crime should not be held liable if he had no clue of what it was going to be used for.
Assistance should be given with the full knowledge of the crime about to be committed.
We shall discuss the various categories of principal offenders.
See the provision above.
***Where the accused is an innocent agent acting at the instruction of the principal, the principal shall be liable.
R V Idiong and Umo: In this case, the accused wanted to procure an abortion. He took a lady to a native doctor. The doctor administered a drug to that effect. It resulted in the death of the lady. The court held that the accused principal was liable. Because the Umo’s (the agent) intention was only to relieve the woman of pain and thought that the drug would work to that effect.
Section 7b. Relates to aiding before the offence.
Section 7b. Does not take into cognizance the facilitative effect of the assistance. NCB V Gamble (1959) 1 qb 11 Eweonye V R (1955) 15 waca 1.
R V Solomon (1959) qd r 123 at 128.
However, 7c. Requires any assistance rendered to actually aid the commission of the offence.
Relates to aiding during the commission of the offence. When can we say that assistance is rendered during the commission of an offence? This can pose difficulty especially in the offences of rape and robbery.
Section 6 of the Criminal Code provides that rape is complete upon penetration. Problems often arise as regards interpreting whether the assistance was rendered during or after the commission of the offence.
R V Mayberry.
R V Johnson: In this case, x signaled (that someone was approaching) to d who was raiding a shop. Upon conviction, x claimed that the aid was given when d had already moved the property. The court held that it aided him with the commission of the offence.
***Mere presence at the scene of the crime does not amount to assistance Eweonye V R. In Azumah V R: It was held that there needs to be something more than mere presence. Except the accused held some rank which meant that his authority would facilitate the commission of the offence.
R V Akpunonu (1942) 8 waca 107: In this case, the wife stood by as the husband buried their new born twins alive. It was held that the wife did not do anything to aid the commission of the offence as such she is not a principal offender. In my opinion, the wife could have been convicted under Section 515 of the Criminal Code for neglect to prevent the commission of a felony.
Counsel. Some positive act of encouragement.
***Presence or absence from the scene is immaterial.
In R V Gianetto: D told A that he was going to kill A’s wife and to that, A responded, “o goody”. It was held to be sufficient encouragement.
Per Widgery in the AG’s reference: Procure means to “produce by endeavor” and in this case, the addition of alcohol to the defendant’s drink was held to be enough procurement for the commission of DUI.
***Membership and participation in a society’s proceedings may imply someone’s participation – R V Idika.
Obodo V R (1959) 4 fsc 1: In this case, the accused persons were members of a society whose main objectives were to kill thieves. Their leader asked them to kill his wife, they all refused. He went to kill her on his own. The court held that the members cannot be exculpated. If they wanted to be, they must have repudiated membership.
*** The prosecution must establish that the procurer intended the commission of the offence.
The procurer can exclude himself from liability if he expressly communicates his disapproval and revocation of the act encouraged (to the third party) before the commission of the offence.
Failure of the accused in Okafor V State to communicate his withdrawal to his confederates was fatal to his case. R V Grundy
***An order from above can also be seen as procuring. Ajao V Alkali Amodu: An alkali ordered a policeman to slap someone for contempt of court. The Alkali was found guilty of assault.
***Someone charged with aiding named principals cannot be convicted and the other principal offenders acquitted on the same grounds- R V Okagbue.
INSTIGATION FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENTRAPMENT.
The courts sometimes condone the participation of law enforcement officers in crime for the purpose of entrapment. The question thus arises as to how far the officer can go before he becomes an offender.
Usually the courts frown when the crime was provoked by the policeman/officer.
In Brannan V Peek: The court was displeased where the policeman persuaded a reluctant person to commit an offence.
R V Smith: The private individual seeking to expose corruption in local government offered bribe to a mayor. He was convicted regardless of the purity of his motive.
Williams V DPP: the bait of cartons of cigarette was held to be acceptable as an entrapment.
In R V Akanni: The court held that members of a crowd that stood by while a house got burnt knowing an old woman to be locked inside behaved disgracefully but were under no obligation to act. As such they were not within the scope of Section 7.
***A person can plead that he is a victim and not a participant by showing that he was under duress, and misrepresentation. There was an element of compulsion. Or that the law was enacted to protect him/ his class.
In conclusion, the purpose of Section 7 is to ensure that people that aided or were effective lubricants to the realization of criminal intention are not left unpunished.