Innocent agent

Someone who has been used by the principal offender to carry out the criminal act but who is completely innocent.

It is possible for a crime to be committed by an innocent agent. This would be the case if the defendant used a person to carry out the act and that person did not have the capacity to commit the offence. In this case the instigator would be the principal offender and the perpetrator would be the innocent agent.


The person committing the actus reus could be completely innocent because they do not have the capacity to commit the offence, for instance he may be a child under the age of ten who had been used to commit a crime, or he could have a defence of insanity or automatism, they may not have the necessary mens rea.


In the case of R v Stringer and Banks 1991, employees were asked by their employer to send out letters and participate in financial transactions which they did not realise would lead to fraudulent transactions. The employer was the principal offender and the employees were innocent agents.

Principal Offender


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