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R v O’Flaherty [2004]

R v O’Flaherty [2004] EWCA Crim 526 concerned the issue of withdrawal from a joint enterprise, emphasising that spontaneous disengagement without communication could constitute a valid withdrawal.

Three defendants, X, Y, and Z, who participated in an initial attack on the victim. Subsequently, a second attack occurred, resulting in fatal injuries to the victim. During this second attack, X merely stood by without actively participating, while Y and Z had already left the scene. All three defendants were initially convicted of murder.

The Court of Appeal, in its judgment, allowed the appeals for Y and Z, as they were not involved in the second attack. However, the appeal was dismissed for X, as his presence during the second attack was deemed sufficient to establish aiding and abetting in the murder.

Mantell LJ clarified the principles guiding withdrawal from a joint enterprise. The determination of whether a defendant has effectively withdrawn is a matter of fact and degree for the jury. Considerations include the nature of prior assistance and encouragement, the immediacy of the fatal actions, and the nature of the actions constituting withdrawal. Crucially, Mantell LJ highlighted that, unlike in pre-planned violence where communication of withdrawal is typically required, spontaneous disengagement may not necessitate explicit communication.

This ruling underlines the flexibility of withdrawal scenarios, emphasising that the effectiveness of withdrawal depends on the specific circumstances, especially in cases involving unplanned violence.

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