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impossibility


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N.

A general defence that arises when compliance with the criminal law is physically impossible. This is most likely to arise in the context of crimes of omission. Thus one cannot be found guilty of failing to report a road traffic accident of which one was unaware. However, under the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 one may be convicted of attempting what is physically or legally impossible: Physical impossibility owing to ineptitude or to the physical facts of the matter is not a defence (e.g. a thief opens a handbag to remove the contents and the handbag is empty). Legal impossibility is not a defence. In R v Shivpuri [1987] AC 1 the defendant tried, as he thought, to smuggle drugs into the country: he was found guilty, although the “drugs” turned out not to be a prohibited substance but rather vegetables.See also attempt.

Physical impossibility owing to ineptitude or to the physical facts of the matter is not a defence (e.g. a thief opens a handbag to remove the contents and the handbag is empty).

Legal impossibility is not a defence. In R v Shivpuri [1987] AC 1 the defendant tried, as he thought, to smuggle drugs into the country: he was found guilty, although the “drugs” turned out not to be a prohibited substance but rather vegetables.

Subjects: Law.


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