• In the case of R v Geddes [1996] 160 JP 697, [1996] Crim LR 894, s.1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 was given literal interpretation to allow D’s appeal against his conviction

Facts of the Case

  • D went into the Dorothy Stringer School in Brighton without having the right to be there (bearing in mind he had no connection with this school either)
  • One teacher interrogated him, whereas a random police officer near the premises shouted at D and he left
  • D had carried a rucksack with him when entering the school and disposed of it on his way out by throwing it in some bushes
  • A large kitchen knife, rope and a roll of masking tape were found within the knife (amongst other items, e.g. a school tie; a white polo shirt; a green T-shirt; a broken mirror; a 12″ plastic ruler; sunglasses; a black sock and an orange toilet roll)
  • D was arrested on 23 July 1994, three days after the situation had taken place
  • D had brought a cider with him and the cider had been found within a cubicle of the boys’ lavatory, so it was presumed that D had visited the school to abduct a child
  • The knife could be used to scare the child and the rope and the tape to restrain his body or cover his mouth to stop him from screaming/calling for help
  • D’s original conviction rested on the count that he had attempted a false imprisonment contrary to s.1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 (though, the second count he was tried on – carrying an offensive weapon – was brought and then disregarded and left unrecorded)

Issues in R v Geddes [1996] 160 JP 697, [1996] Crim LR 894

  • D appealed against his false imprisonment conviction on the basis that it relied only on the prosecution’s speculation
  • The facts of the case were the main tool in the judges’ hand to decide whether D had merely prepared the offence or whether he had begun to carry out the offence in fact
  • The facts of the case could indicate D’s intention, although one could speculate whether they could prove the actual commission of the offence

Held by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) 

  • Appeal allowed – evidence was held to be insufficient in law to prove that D had actually attempted to imprison someone

Lord Bingham of Cornhill

Reading the judgement, Lord Bingham stressed that the matter has to be interpreted in the eyes of the law

  • ‘This appeal is concerned not with the correctness of the jury’s decision of fact, but the correctness of the judge’s ruling of law. Was the evidence summarised in the admissions sufficient in law to support a finding that the appellant did an act which was more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offence charged?’ 
  • ‘It is, we think, an accurate paraphrase of the statutory test and not an illegitimate gloss upon it to ask whether the available evidence, if accepted, could show that a defendant has done an act which shows that he has actually tried to commit the offence in question, or whether he has only got ready or put himself in a position or equipped himself to do so.’
  • So, for this purpose, must the contents of the rucksack, which give a clear indication as to what the appellant may have had in mind, but do not throw light on whether he had begun to carry out the commission of the offence.’