Understanding – Being A “Party To An Offense”

January 27, 2023


Under Canadian criminal law, individuals who encourage or assist in the commission of an offence are considered to be just as guilty as the person who has directly committed the offence. This concept is often referred to as “aiding and abetting.” Those who aid and abet the commission of a crime are considered to be equal parties to the offence under the criminal Code of Canada. For many people, knowing the right information about the subject at hand can be helpful.

At Slaferek Law, we have a group of skilled and experienced criminal defence lawyers who are well-versed in criminal law. “Party To An Offense” is a difficult term that might not be clear to everyone. By addressing each category in turn, we hope to clarify how it works and demonstrate how someone can intentionally or unintentionally contribute to an offence.

Understanding “Party To An Offense”

In section 21 of the Criminal Code of Canada, the term “party to an offence” refers to a person who is directly involved in the commission of a criminal offence. This can include the person who actually carried out the offence, as well as anyone who aided, abetted, counselled, or procured the commission of the offence.

It also includes anyone who is an accessory before or after the fact. This means that even if a person did not directly participate in the commission of the offence, they could still be considered a party to the offence if they played a role in planning or facilitating it in any way.

Let’s discuss section 21 and the subsection in more detail.

Section 21(1)(a) – The Principal Offender

According to Section 21(1)(a) of the Code, those who actually commit an offence are considered parties to that offence. It is fairly simple to understand that anyone who used their own hands to commit a robbery is a party to the robbery offence.

Each person who actively participates in the commission of that crime, whether alone or with another person, becomes a co-principal. When this is the case, it is not necessary to pin down precisely who committed each crime’s constituent parts. Instead, every action taken to commit the crime is assumed to have been made by all co-principals.

A person could be a principal in an offence even if they did not directly commit the offence. When they instead order an innocent person to commit the crime in their place, this happens.

Section 21(1)(b) – Aiding

According to Section 21(1)(b) of the Code, individuals who do or fail to do anything to aid another person in committing an offence are considered to be parties to that offence. This means that even if the person did not directly commit the act themselves, they are still considered to be involved in the offence as they took some action or inaction to help or assist the principal perpetrator in carrying out the offence.

For this person to be considered a party to the offence, they must have had the intention of assisting and must have been aware that the principal perpetrator intended to commit the crime. For instance, if a person lends their car to a friend without knowing that the friend plans to use the car as a getaway vehicle in a robbery, the owner of the car cannot be considered to be aiding in the commission of the offence.

Also Read: Domestic Assault In Alberta – All You Need To Know

Section 21(1)(c) – Abetting

According to Section 21(1)(c) of the Code, individuals who aid or abet any person in committing an offence are considered to be parties to that offence. “Abetting” refers to the act of encouraging, instigating, promoting, or procuring a crime to be committed and must occur during the actual commission of the offence.

To be found guilty of abetting, the accused must have intended to encourage the principal perpetrator to commit the offence.

The type of conduct that will be sufficient to prove abetting will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. For example, an accused person who was present during a sexual assault and laughed during the assault was found to have abetted the assault of the victim through their laughter.

About Slaferek Law

As highly sought-after criminal defence lawyers in Edmonton, we are dedicated to representing individuals and organizations charged with criminal offences. With a thorough understanding of the criminal justice system, we work tirelessly to protect our client’s rights and ensure they receive a fair trial. Learn more about Slaferek Law and our criminal law services here.

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