Law and crime have a long history in the civilization of the society. An act that is forbidden by the law of the land is called a crime. The definition and concept of crime vary according to the values of a particular group and society, it deals with various faith, religious attitudes, customs, and traditions, and also according to the form of government, political, the economic structure of the society and along with that several other factors. For instance, what is an offense against property in a capitalist society may be a lawful way of living in a socialist society. There are times when an offender himself is the reason for committing an offense, but sometimes there is a hidden factor or a person who abets or convinces an offender to commit a crime. This is when the terms like ‘conspiracy’ and ‘abetment’ find their usage. Sometimes, indirectly participating in committing an offense itself may also become a punishable offense.
In such crimes, the offenders are not directly involved themselves in the offense. People may think that if they plan to commit a criminal act but do not commit, they will not be held responsible for a criminal act. However, this belief is wrong as there are laws set out for certain offenses called “inchoate” offenses—the word, Inchoate means that a criminal act was anticipated or prepared for but not completed. The significant offenses which are included in this are Abetment and Conspiracy. The word abet can be understood as an act to aid, assist, aid, encourage, counsel, procure, countenance and command, induce, or assist another one in committing.
On the other hand, conspiracy is an inchoate crime and is punishable mainly due to an agreement (or understanding) to take part in a crime is a decisive act fraught with potential dangers. Both the concepts are similar as both aim to commit an offense but are different on technical grounds. In the United Arab Emirates, Federal Law Number 3 of 1987 concerning the promulgation of UAE Penal Code, hereinafter referred to as the Law or the Penal Code, provides the regulation of criminal conspiracy under chapter three explicitly. A man is not deemed to be punished by law because he has conceived an act of crime in his heart, so long as he never endeavors to realize his ideas. But if he shares this act of crime and convinces or persuades other people to commit the act, it will be considered an abetment of crime.
For instance, there is a gang of 5 people (A, B, C, D, E), A has enmity towards ‘X,’ and he intends to harm him, so he convinces the other four members of the gang to harm X. So the plan they all chalk out is that B will enter the apartment wearing a black colored women’s abaya with a key provided by C, C will wait outside in the car, and once they complete the act, they will hide the weapon at D’s place. The plan is plain and simple, and everyone knows their role in the act of crime. It is clear from the background that B will commit the act of harm, and others will only assist and help him in the commission of this crime. Here the question raised is that what is the criminal accountability of parties who merely supported the commissioning of such an illegal act and were not directly involved or engaged or were parties to the people who were directly involved but did not commit the crime. These individuals are termed as Accomplices legally who play different roles in assisting the perpetrator in his crime. In the abovementioned act, all of them were involved in the crime that was divided into several categories such as the one who committed the crime in actuality, the one who encouraged and pushed the perpetrator to commit, however, was not present at site like A and D, the one who assists the main culprit in escaping and the one who constructed the plan or anyone who knows such criminal act and kept quiet.
An accomplice is a person who possesses mens rea (a guilty intention to commit the crime) and assists or aids the principal in committing the crime. Moreover, a person who aids the offense by commanding the principal to perpetuate the crime; provides an advantage for committing the felony; accosts or instigates the principal to execute the offense; encourage in arranging the instruments for the commitment of the crime; watch the happening of an event where he has the legal duty to make an effort or prevent such crime. Hence, Instigation or abetment can be defined as an act of suggesting, encouraging, or inciting a person to do or abstain or stop him from doing something. Instigation may take place either directly or indirectly, by written or oral words, or even by gestures and hints. It is essential to note the Instigation must be sufficient to actively encourage and push a person to commit an offense or a criminal act. It should be more than mere advice or a simple suggestion or inference of a conversation. Under Article 44 of the Law, the accomplice is defined as a person who commits a crime alone. A person who acts as a direct accomplice shall be referred to as the criminal activity perpetrator. However, to determine if the accomplice is a direct accomplice, the following instances and circumstances must be considered:
In addition to this, as per Article 45, a person will be seen as an accomplice by causation in the following instances :
The main difference between a direct accomplice and an accomplice by causation in the Penal Law is that Article 46 of the law penalizes the accomplice by causation. On the other hand, as per Article 48, if an accomplice is able to prove the non-existence of criminal intent in the commission of such crime, he will not be punished. In Article 52, it is clearly mentioned that in accordance with the criminal intention and knowledge of such crime, the law penalizes the accomplice either direct or by causation.
The law in one part holds the accomplice liable for his intention in the commission of such offense and allows him to take his defense on the happening of certain events described under Chapter 4 of the Penal Law. The abovementioned chapter concerns the causes of legitimacy, wherein any individual who is charged under the act of an accomplice can claim defense under the right of legitimacy in performing his duties or under self-defense. Article 53 of the Law states that an act will not be recognized as a crime if the act was performed within limits are as follows:
Article 56 of the Penal Law states that the right of self-defense and any act committed while exercising the right of self-defense will not be considered and seen as a crime. The law further states for various instances under which the action will be viewed as a right for self-defense, such as in the case where the defender faces or foresees imminent danger to himself or his property and has no way to reach out to public authorities, the defender did not have any other means to avoid such actions. The act was conducted out of necessity to avoid danger. There is a fragile line of difference between a conspirator and an accomplice. A conspiracy happens when two or more people plan to commit an offense or criminal act and the co-conspirator assists in committing a crime. In contrast, the accomplice helps the perpetrator commit an act but does not directly commit the crime himself. An accomplice will only be liable when the act of crime is completely committed, whereas the conspirators can be found guilty to conspire even if the act is not committed based on mens rea. Consequently, any individual who has a criminal intent to commit an offense and assist another person by several ways means, either directly or by causation, will be liable for punishment under the Penal code unless his abetment was not the probable cause of happening of such criminal act.