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D has tried to commit an act and has failed in doing so.
s1.1 Criminal Attempts Act 1981
Defines an attempt - If with intent to commit an offence … a person does an act which is MORE THAN MERELY PREPARATORY to the commission of the offence he is guilty of attempting to commit an offence.
s4.3 Criminal Attempts Act 1981
Whether D's acts have gone beyond the merely preparatory stage is a question for the jury.
Actus Reus of Attempts
A positive act which is more than merely preparatory to the commission of the full offence. This does not change with the crime.
Gullefer (1987)
D climbed onto a racetrack in order to distract the other dogs, and subsequently ensure the dog he had placed a bet on would win the race. It was held that he was not guilty as he had not "embarked upon the crime proper".
Campbell (1990)
D had plans to rob a post office. He was wearing a motorcycle helmet, had an imitation gun and a threatening note in his pocket which he planned to hand over to the cashier. He was arrested before entering the post office. It was held his acts were merely preparatory and he had not embarked upon the crime proper (as Gullefer states) - not guilty of attempted robbery.
Geddes (1996)
D was discovered in the boys' toilet of a school by a member of staff. He ran off leaving behind a rucksack, which contained various items, including string, sealing tape and a knife. He was charged with attempted kidnapping. On appeal D's conviction was quashed, because of serious doubts that D had gone beyond the merely preparatory stage. There was no contact with a potential victim either.
Boyle and Boyle (1987)
Ds damaged the door of a house aiming to tresspass and steal good therein (attempted burglary). Held that when Ds began to break down the door their acts were more than merely preparatory. Convictions upheld by CA.
D found out that his girlfriend wanted to end their relationship and begin seeing another man, V. D then bought a shotgun, shortened the barrel and went to confront V as he dropped his daughter off at school. D got into V's car with a crash helmet on and the visor down, and said "you are not going to like this". At this point V grabbed the end of the gun, pushed it out of the way and and threw it out of the window. CA held once D got into V's car and pointed the loaded gun, there was sufficient evidence that the acts were more than merely preparatory to the commission of the full offence (in this case, murder).
A-G Ref - No 1 of 1992
D had been charged with the attempted rape of V after pulling her behind a hedge and trying to have sex with her. However, he couldn't get an erection and therefore the full attempt was not completed, according to the trial judge (who directed the jury to acquit). However, it was clarified for future reference that penetration doesn't have to be attempted to be held guilty of attempted rape.
Tosti and White
Ds attempted to burgle a barn. At around midnight, they were disturbed while examining the padlock on the barn doors when they realised that they were being watched. They ran off to their cars which were parked in a nearby lay-by; held acts were more than merely preparatory (guilty of attempted burglary).
Mens Rea of Attempts
The essence of mens rea in attempt cases is D's intention to commit the full offence.
In this case, CA held that although a murder charge requires a mens rea of intention to either kill or cause GBH, only intent to kill will suffice for attempted murder. This is because "the intent becomes the principal ingredient of the crime".
A-G Ref - No 3 of 1992
D was acquitted of attempted arson with intent to endanger lives or with recklessness as to whether lives are endangered. Held that it was only necessary to prove an intent to cause damage by fire and then recklessness as to whether lives are endangered thereby. (Not guilty, would be now)
Millard and Vernon
Ds were football supporters who repeatedly pushed against a wooden wall at a football ground in an attempt to break it - however, they were reckless as to whether the wall might be damaged. Held that mere recklessness is insufficient for attempted crimes - not guilty.
D rummaged through the contents of V's bag but did not take anything, was subsequently charged with theft of the handbag and its contents. However, CA quashed the conviction on the basis of a misdirection, and also declined to vary the offence to attempted theft as there was no evidence of D's intention to steal any of the items.
A-G Ref - Nos 1 and 2 of 1979
Gives us conditional intent and solves the problem of Easom. In cases of attempted theft, D doesn't need to have a specific item in mind to have the required mens rea of intent.
Factual impossibility
D has attempted an offence that cannot physically be achieved. However, this may still result in a conviction.
An example of factual impossibility - D was a drugs courier who was arrested by the police while transporting bags of white powder believed to be heroin. It had turned out that it was actually not heroin, but vegetable matter. Nevertheless, D was convicted with being 'knowingly concerned in dealing prohibited drugs' - CA and HoL upheld his conviction.
Legal impossibility
Under the current laws, D has attempted an offence which doesn't actually exist. This will not result in a conviction.