1 an act of urging on or spurring on or rousing to action or instigating; "the incitement of mutiny" [syn: incitation]
2 needed encouragement; "the result was a provocation of vigorous investigation" [syn: provocation]
3 something that incites or provokes; a means of arousing or stirring to action [syn: incitation, provocation]
4 the act of exhorting; an earnest attempt at persuasion [syn: exhortation]
In English criminal law, incitement is an anticipatory common law offence and is the act of persuading, encouraging, instigating, pressuring, or threatening so as to cause another to commit a crime.
It was abolished when section 59 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 came into force, replacing it with three new statutory offences of encouraging or assisting crime.
Relationship with other offencesThe rationale of incitement matches the general justification underpinning the other inchoate offences of conspiracy and attempt by allowing the police to intervene before a criminal act is completed and the harm or injury is actually caused. There is considerable overlap, particularly where two or more individuals are involved in criminal activity. The plan to commit crime may exist only in the mind of one person until others are incited to join in, at which point the social danger becomes more real. The offence overlaps the offences of counselling or procuring as an accessory. Indeed, in the early case of R v Higgins (1801) 102 E.R. 269 incitement was defined as being committed when one person counsels, procures or commands another to commit a crime, whether that person commits the crime. The words, "counsel" and "procure" were later adopted in s8 Accessories and Abettors Act 1861 as two of the four forms of accessory. In AG’s Reference (No. 1 of 1975) (1975) QB 773, Widgery CJ. said:
- To procure means to produce by endeavour. You procure a thing by setting out to see that it happens and taking the appropriate steps to produce that happening. We think that there are plenty of instances in which a person may be said to procure the commission of a crime by another even though there is no sort of conspiracy between the two, even though there is no attempt at agreement or discussion as to the form which the offence should take.
The mens reaThe inciter must intend the others to engage in the behaviour constituting the offence, including any consequences which may result, and must know or believe (or possibly suspect) that those others will have the relevant mens rea. In R v. Curr (1967) 1 AER 478 the defendant incited women to commit offences under the Family Allowances Act 1945 but, because the prosecution did not prove that the women had the mens rea to constitute the offence, the conviction was quashed. Fenton Atkinson J. explained that:
- “In our view, the argument for the prosecution here gives no effect to the word “knowing” in [the relevant statutory provision], and in our view could only be guilty.. if the woman solicited that, that is, the woman agent sent to collect the allowance, knew that the action she was asked to carry out amounted to an offence.”
- “...we have therefore come to the conclusion, with regret, that the indictment does not disclose an offence known to the law because it cannot be a crime on the part of this girl aged 15 to have sexual intercourse with her father, though it is of course a crime and a very serious crime, on the part of the father. There is here incitement to a course of conduct, but that course of conduct cannot be treated as a crime by the girl.... It is regrettable indeed that a man who importunes his daughter under the age of 16 to have sexual intercourse with him but does not go beyond incitement cannot be guilty of a crime.”
The actus reusThe inciter is one who reaches out and seeks to influence the mind of another to commit a crime, although where, for example, a letter conveying the incitement is intercepted, there is only an attempt to incite (see R v Banks (1873) 12 Cox CC 393). So merely making suggestions is not enough. There must be actual communication so that the other person has the opportunity to agree, but the actus reus is complete whether the incitement actually persuades another to commit an offence. In R v Goldman (2001) Crim. LR 822 the defendant wrote to a Dutch firm (ESV) which had advertised pornography for sale, requesting pornographic material. He was convicted of an attempt to incite another (ESV) to distribute indecent photographs because the offer to buy amounted to an inducement to ESV to commit a crime.
In R v Fitzmaurice (1983) 1 AER 189 it was held that the necessary element of persuasion was satisfied by a "suggestion, proposal or request [that] was accompanied by an implied promise of reward". In Race Relations Board v Applin (1973) 1 QB 815 Lord Denning stated that a person may incite another to do an act by threatening or by pressure, as well as by persuasion. The incitement can take any form (words or deeds). It may be addressed to a particular person or group or to the public at large. In R v Marlow (1997) Crim. LR 897 the defendant wrote and published a book on the cultivation of cannabis, which he advertised, selling about 500 copies. It was alleged that the book was not a bona fide textbook, but was an incitement to those who bought it to cultivate cannabis. The defence claimed the book as a genuine contribution to the debate on the legalisation of cannabis and said that it only contained general advice which was freely available elsewhere. The judge directed the jury that they had to be sure that the book could "encourage or persuade or is capable of encouraging or persuading other people to produce the drug". The Court of Appeal held that there was no misdirection and the conviction was not unsafe.
Thus, the incitement may be implied as well as express and may be directed to persons generally. So manufacturing and distributing devices that will facilitate the breaking of the law will be taken to encourage those who buy it to break the law (see Invicta Plastics Ltd v Clare (1976) Crim. LR 131). The test is whether there is a lawful use for the device. For example, a recording or transcribing device may be used lawfully without breaching copyright, but a device to detect radar signals so as to avoid speed camera/red light infringement systems would have no other purpose than assisting drivers to evade detection. But note that the act incited must be a crime by the person incited so any alleged breach of copyright would have to be criminal, and the defendant would have to know all the material facts that would make the incited person's behaviour criminal, but not that the behaviour was a crime (see the public policy ignorantia juris non excusat which prevents ignorance of the law from being an excuse). In R v Whitehouse (1977) 65 Cr. App. R. 33 an uncle did not incite his 15-year-old niece to incest because, if the incitement had succeeded and she had submitted to intercourse, she would not have committed an offence. This applied R v Tyrell (1894) 1 QB 710 which stated that where a statutory offence is designed to protect a particular class of individuals against themselves, they cannot, as the victims, commit such offences against themselves. In Tyrell, the girl was not guilty of inciting the man to have under-age sex with her, since the girl could not herself be guilty of the full offence.
ImpossibilityIf X incites Y to kill Z but, unknown to both of them at the time, Z had already died, it would be impossible to kill Z and so no crime of incitement would have been committed. Apart from simple situations such as this, the current law is difficult. R v Fitzmaurice allows the impossibility defense, but its scope is quite limited. X planned to collect a reward from a security firm by informing the police of the existence of a conspiracy to rob a security van. He recruited the defendant who thought he was engaging men for this robbery. Subsequently, the conspirators were arrested by the police. The Court of Appeal held that the test was to decide what sort of conduct was incited, attempted or the subject of a conspiracy. If the evidence shows incitement in general terms, e.g. to rob a security van, this is always possible, whereas if the subsequent agreement relates to a specific but fictitious crime, there might be an acquittal. In DPP v Armstrong 1999 EWHC 270 (QB) it was held that impossibility of the commission of the offence incited was irrelevant to guilt.
Statutory incitementSeveral statutes have adopted incitement, e.g. incitement to racial hatred under the Public Order Act 1986 and incitement to gross indecency under the Indecency with Children Act 1960, and more recently, the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.
- Ormerod, David. (2005). Smith and Hogan Criminal Law. London: LexisNexis. ISBN 0-406-97730-5
- Smith, J. C. (1994) "Commentary to R v Shaw". Criminal Law Review 365
incitement in Swedish: Anstiftan
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