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R v Tyrrell 1894

R v Tyrrell [1894] 1 QB 710 dealt with a legal conundrum regarding the criminal liability of a victim under a specific statutory provision. This case gave rise to the establishment of the victim rule, which holds that a victim cannot be considered an accessory to an offence created with the intention of protecting a specific group of victims.


Tyrrell, a girl, charged under Section 5 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 for aiding, abetting, counselling, and procuring a man to engage in sexual intercourse with her while she was below 16 years old. The pivotal issue before the court was whether a person could be held criminally responsible as an accessory to an offence committed against themselves.


In rendering its decision, the court, with Lord Coleridge CJ presiding, articulated the fundamental principle that the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 was enacted to protect women and girls from victimisation. Lord Coleridge emphasised that the Act was silent about aiding, abetting, or soliciting, and it could not have intended to subject the very individuals it sought to protect to punishment for offences committed against themselves.


The court allowed the appeal, and the conviction of the girl was quashed. The judgment laid the foundation for the Victim Rule, indicating that where a statutory offence is designed to safeguard a specific group of victims, a member of that group cannot be treated as an accessory to the crime committed against them.


It is crucial to note that the application of the victim rule is limited to situations where the statutory offence is explicitly crafted to protect a particular class of individuals. In subsequent cases, such as R v Gnango [2011], the courts clarified that R v Tyrrell does not establish a general proposition barring victims from being accessories. Instead, it applies specifically when the legislation's primary purpose is to shield a designated group from harm.


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