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What is considered as assisting an offender?

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A recent episode of Channel 4’s 24 Hours in Police Custody dealt with a gradual, worsening feud between a father and a boyfriend which led to a fatal stabbing. Robert Parkins was convicted of Alex Fitzpatrick’s murder and received a life sentence with a minimum term of 19 years.

One relevant issue that arose, was the arrest and caution of Parkins’ parents for assisting an offender. This arrest was made after it was discovered that Parkins mother and father, after the stabbing, drove their son eight miles outside of Cambridgeshire and into London to stay with his aunt.

Under Section 4 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, the act of assisting an offender requires one person to be guilty of committing an offence and that another person has intentionally acted in such a way which impedes the apprehension of that guilty individual. Actions which constitute assisting an offender could range from harbouring the offender, hindering the investigation or, similar to that of Parkins’ case, helping the offender escape apprehension or prosecution. In cases where the court can find that the actions of the defendant constitute and satisfy Section 4 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, an individual could face a maximum sentence of up to 14 years, subject to conditions.

This is a complex area of law with severe consequences for those convicted. It is therefore very important if faced with any criminal offence to obtain expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity. Our criminal defence solicitors have successfully represented a number of people for the same allegation. If you would like to speak to a member of the department please ring 0161 696 6188 or complete our online enquiry forms.

By Oliver Fiefield, graduate paralegal