Regina v Whitehouse: 1941

(British Columbia) The court asked when a party to a joint enterprise may claim to have abandoned or withdrawn from that enterprise ‘Can it be said on the facts of this case that a mere change of mental intention and a quitting of the scene of the crime just immediately prior to the striking of the fatal blow will absolve those who participate in the commission of the crime by overt acts up to that moment from all the consequences of its accomplishment by the one who strikes in ignorance of his companion’s change of heart? I think not. After a crime has been committed and before a prior abandonment of the common enterprise may be found by a jury there must be, in my view, in the absence of exceptional circumstances, something more than a mere mental change of intention and physical change of place by those associates who wish to dissociate themselves from the consequences attendant upon their willing assistance up to the moment of the actual commission of that crime. I would not attempt to define too closely what must be done in criminal matters involving participation in a common unlawful purpose to break the chain of causation and responsibility. That must depend upon the circumstances of each case but it seems to me that one essential element ought to be established in a case of this kind: where practicable and reasonable there must be timely communication of the intention to abandon the common purpose from those who wish to dissociate themselves from the contemplated crime to those who desire to continue in it. What is ‘timely communication’ must be determined by the facts of each case but where practicable and reasonable it ought to be such communication, verbal or otherwise, that will serve unequivocal notice upon the other party to the common unlawful cause that if he proceeds upon it he does so without the further aid and assistance of those who withdraw. The unlawful purpose of him who continues alone is then his own and not one in common with those who are no longer parties to it nor liable to its full and final consequences.’


Sloan J A


[1941] 1 WWR 112, [1941] 1 DLR 683


CitedRex v Saunders and Archer 1573
Misdirected Poison remained Offence
A intended to kill his wife, and gave her a poisoned apple. She gave it her child who ate the apple and died. The defendant had not intended his daughter to eat the apple.
Held: A was guilty of the murder of his daughter, but his wife, who was . .

Cited by:

ExplainedRegina v Mitchell and King CACD 16-Sep-1998
A defendant would sufficiently disassociate himself from a violent joint enterprise by communicating his withdrawal to the co-accused, only when the violent element was not pre-planned. Otherwise it was not sufficient merely to withdraw. . .
CitedRegina v Derek William Bentley (Deceased) CACD 30-Jul-1998
The defendant had been convicted of murder in 1952, and hung. A court hearing an appeal after many years must apply laws from different eras to different aspects. The law of the offence (of murder) to be applied was that at the time of the offence. . .
AppliedRegina v Becerra and Cooper CACD 1975
The defendants sought leave to appeal against their convictions for a brutal and horrific murder. Becerra suggeste dtat he had wanted to withdraw from the event before the murder took place.
Held: The appeal failed: ‘ in the circumstances then . .
AppliedRegina v Whitefield 1984
The two accused agreed to break into a flat, but before entry was achieved, W said he withdrew. The other burgled the flat with another.
Held: The appeal was allowed. The judge was wrong to tell the jury that communication of his withdrawal to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Crime, Commonwealth

Updated: 28 April 2022; Ref: scu.181236