1 (in criminal law) The person who actually carries out a crime. (Formerly, the actual perpetrator was known as the principal in the first degree and a person who aided and abetted was called principal in the second degree, but the former is now known as the principal and the latter as the secondary party.) The law on principals and accessories is codified in the Accessories and Abettors Act 1861 s 8 (as amended by the Criminal Law Act 1977) for indictable offences and the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 s 44 for summary offences. A person can be a principal even if he does not carry out the act himself; for example, if he acts through an innocent agent, such as a child, or if he is legally responsible for the acts of another (e.g. because of vicarious liability). Note also that even if for some reason the secondary party is incapable of committing the offence as a principal he can still be convicted of the offence: in Ram v Ram  17 Cox CC 609 a woman was found guilty of aiding and abetting in a rape (even though a woman cannot commit rape as a principal).
2 (in the law of agency) The person on whose behalf an agent acts.
3 (in finance) The sum of money lent or invested, as distinguished from the interest.
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