• In the case of R v Campbell [1991] 93 Cr App R 350, D’s conviction for attempted robbery was quashed after the judge’s misdirection to the jury compelled them to conclude that the evidence provided was sufficient to satisfy the law
  • The case also involved a submission of no case to answer by D

Facts of the Case

  • This case involved the suspected commission of a robbery at a post office
  • The police’s surveillance indicated that D had been spotted in the vicinity of the post office
  • D had worn a full motorcycle attire and had indeed been observed to have ridden a motorcycle
  • D came by the post office, put on a pair of sunglasses and reached towards his pocket, which gave the impression of containing a heavy object
  • D returned 30 minutes later, but did not repeat his actions upon arrival at the post office and was arrested
  • The police discovered D had possessed an imitation firearm and a threatening note, which he had intended to hand at the post office’s counter
  • The judge convicted D of attempted robbery with reference to the Criminal Attempts Act 1981

Issues in R v Campbell [1991] 93 Cr App R 350

  • Before his appeal, D had pleaded guilty for the possession of an imitation firearm, but refused to accept the blame for attempting a robbery
  • D asserted that at the time of his arrest, he had given up on continuing the robbery
  • In spite of his refusal to accept culpability for attempting the robbery, he was nevertheless convicted of it and appealed against his conviction on the basis that the trial judge had wrongly rejected his submission of no case to answer

Held by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)  

  • Appeal allowed – judges should restrict themselves to the definition of attempt under s.1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981; and on a case-by-case basis, a judge should weigh whether the evidence should be left to the jury, hence the judge was wrong to conclude that the jury should determine that an attempt had been made

Lord Justice Watkins

Watkins LJ read out the judgement, evaluating what the trial judge had done correctly and what had been unnecessarily mentioned in his directions to the jury, and concluding that D was not in a position to have performed the act

  • ‘The judge in the present case properly and accurately directed the jury upon what is contained in section 1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 . But he also regaled them with references to the law which obtained before that Act was passed. We believe that to be wholly unnecessary as we have already indicated.’ [p.354]
  • ‘If a person, in circumstances such as this, has not even gained the place where he could be in a position to carry out the offence, it is extremely unlikely that it could ever be said that he had performed an act which could be properly said to be an attempt.’ [p.355]
  • ‘In our judgment in this case, the judge was in error in coming to the conclusion that on the evidence—which was, as I have already said, undisputed—the jury could properly conclude that an attempt had been made. He should have stopped the trial as he was invited to by learned defence counsel. That being so, and for all the reasons previously stated, including the state of the law, in our view, this appeal must be allowed and the conviction quashed.’ [p.355]