Joint enterprise and secondary liability
Produced in partnership with Joanne Cecil of Garden Court Chambers
Joint enterprise and secondary liability

The following Corporate Crime practice note Produced in partnership with Joanne Cecil of Garden Court Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Joint enterprise and secondary liability
  • Principal v secondary liability
  • Assistance
  • Encouragement
  • Procurement
  • A common purpose
  • Joint enterprise indictments
  • Is an accessory’s mere presence at the scene enough?
  • Mental element for secondary (accessory) liability
  • Withdrawal by an accessory
  • More...

This Practice Note is concerned with secondary liability, sometimes called accessory liability: the liability that attaches to parties to a joint enterprise.

In criminal law, where two or more parties embark on a joint enterprise, as either a principal or secondary party, each will be liable for acts committed in pursuance of that joint enterprise with the necessary intent, unless the principal goes beyond the scope of what was agreed.

In the 2016 cases of R v Jogee (Appellant) and Ruddock v The Queen, the Supreme Court clarified and restored the test for the mental element of intent which must be established when a defendant is accused of being a secondary party to a crime, see News Analysis: Supreme Court rules on ‘joint enterprise’.

Following R v Jogee, there is no longer a separate category of parasitic accessory liability. Adefendant’s liability is to be determined by reference to ordinary principles of secondary liability.

Principal v secondary liability

Where two or more persons embark on a joint enterprise to commit an offence, legal liability will apply to those involved in two ways:

  1. principal liability—one or more of the defendants will be a principal offender. They, by their conduct, commit the offence with the relevant mens rea (so all the elements of the offence can be proven against them individually)

  2. secondary party liability/accessory liability—where a principal is in fact

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