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Act of An Accomplice In Criminal Offence

Updated: Nov 12, 2022

In commission of any criminal offence, there are people who merely supported or perpetrated in the commission of a particular crime and were not physically and directly involved, and there are people who were directly and physically involved but did not commit the crime.

Using a hypothetical case as an illustration:

“A group of 4 men had planned to rob a jewelry shop, and the plan is that A will enter the shop wearing balaclava with a key to the shop provided by B, C will be in the van outside waiting, and part of the plan is that the stolen items will be kept at D’s house. As simple as the plan is, each and every one of them are aware of their respective roles in the act. It is factually correct that A will commit the robbery and the rest of the gang will assist him in the commission of the crime”.

From the above scenario, the actual question that will come to mind is how to consider the criminal accountability of each of the parties who merely supported the commissioning of the crime but were not directly involved, and those who were directly involved but did not commit the crime.

These categories of persons mentioned above are characterized as “Accomplices” who played different roles in assisting the perpetrator in committing the crime. In the above scenario, all the characters involved in the crime are divided into different categories such as the one who actually committed the robbery, the person who encouraged the perpetrator to commit the crime but was not present at the scene of crime like A & D, the person who assisted in the escape of the accused and the one who made the plan or who has the knowledge of such criminal act and did not report it.

For the crime of an accomplice to be complete or determined, there must be or the person must poses the Mens Rea (the intent to commit the crime). In this principle, it will be said the conscious goal of an accomplice would be that the crime is successfully committed and thus, helps the perpetrator in doing that, it is pertinent to hold the accomplice liable for the acts of the principal accused. The principle in criminal jurisprudence made it clear that one who willingly participates or assists in the commission of crime is equally liable as that of the one who commits the act and thus, deserves equal punishment.

The UAE Federal Law N0.3 1987, Chapter 3 provides for the concept of an accomplice or criminal conspiracy. Under Article 44 of the said law, an accomplice is defined as a person who commits a crime alone or acts as a direct accomplice and shall be referred to as perpetrator of the criminal act.

However, an accomplice can be classified as a direct accomplice or an accomplice by causation. In other to determine if an accomplice is a direct accomplice, Article 44 of the law enumerated the following instances which must be considered:

· If he joins another person in committing the crime.

· If he takes part in committing a crime which consists of several acts, and intentionally commits any of its constituent act.

· If he utilizes another person by any means to execute the constituent act of the crime, and the latter person is, for any reason, not criminally responsible therefore.

Under the provision of Article 45 of the penal code, a person shall be considered as an accomplice to a crime by causation if:

· If he abets a crime, and it occurs in accordance with such abetment.

· If he conspires with others to commit a crime and it occurs in accordance with such conspiracy.

· If he gives the doer a weapon, tools, or any other thing which he knowingly uses in committing the crime, or if he willingly aids the doer by any other means in acts which prepares for, facilitates or complete the act of crime.

In accordance with the UAE law, an accomplice shall be equally liable for the crime whether he contacts the principal offender directly or through intermediary. However, in exception to the above principle, Article 48 of the law has shown that not every accomplice will be punished, if he proves lack of criminal intent in the commission of such crime or any other particular reasons related to his person, then the rest of the accomplices shall not benefit therefrom.


As per the position and provisions of the law, an accomplice on one hand will be held liable for his intention in the commission of an offence and on the other hand the law sets exceptions which avails him a defense on the occurrence of certain events as clearly described under chapter 4 of the penal law. The said chapter 4 covers the causes of legitimacy, wherein any person who is charged under the act of being an accomplice to a crime can claim a defense under the right of legitimacy performing his duties, self-defense.

The provisions of Article 53 of the penal law states that an act will not be considered as criminal if the act was performed within the limit and the instances are as follows:

· Punishment by a husband of his wife and punishment by a parent and custodians of minor children within the limit prescribed by sharia or by law.

· Medical surgery or medical treatment in accordance with the license provided to medical surgeon.

· Acts of violence which occurred during sports within the limit prescribed for such sports subject,

· Accusations of fowl words exchanged between the litigating parties or their advocates.

· A public employee is obliging orders of the superior employee.

Furthermore, the provisions of Article 56 of the penal law avails another defense open to the accomplice and that is right to self-defense. There shall be no crime in case the act is performed in the exercise of the right of lawful self-defense. There shall be a right of lawful self-defense if the following conditions are met with:

· If the defender faces an immediate danger from a crime on his person, property of the person or property of another or if he believed the existence of such danger and his belief is based on reasonable grounds,

· The defender has no possibility to resort to public authorities to avoid the danger in due course.

· The defender has no means to repel such danger.

· The defense is necessary to repel the danger and commiserate with it.

There is a thin line of difference between a conspiracy and an accomplice which if not well excruciated, people tend to mistake it to be of the same act of crime. A conspiracy occurs when two or more people plan to commit an offence and a co-conspirator assist in committing the crime, while on the other hand, an accomplice assist a perpetrator in committing an act but does not necessarily need to be directly involved in the commission of the crime himself.

An accomplice will only be liable when the act is committed, while the conspirators can even be found guilty to conspire even if the act is not committed yet.

Notwithstanding, the hurdle/difficulties of prosecuting an accomplice, the court’s primary interest is to establish an accomplice’s criminal intent (mens rea) and whether this act of assisting in commission of the crime is a probable cause of the criminal act. In the UAE, the law punishes any person guilty of assisting in the commission of a crime just as the perpetrator regardless of their role in the criminal act.

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