Comparative Legal Analysis of Complicity in a Crime

Czasopismo Prawa Karnego i Nauk Penalnych Rok XXV: 2021, numer 3
Journal of Criminal Law and Penal Studies Volume XXV: 2021, No. 3

Vukan Slavković – Ph.D., College of criminalistics and security, Nish, Serbia; University of Montenegro, Kotor, Montenegro; e-mail:

Full text in PDF (open access)




complicity, criminal law, liability, incitement, aiding


The paper analyses the main provisions of complicity in the criminal law of Great Britain,
the United States, France, and Germany. The norms on responsibility for crimes committed
by a group of persons, regardless of whether they are regulated by the common law
or the Romano-Germanic legal system, were largely influenced by the accessory theory
of complicity. The criminal legislation of Great Britain and the United States considers
incitement, conspiracy, and attempt not as stages of committing crimes but as independent
criminal offenses entailing punishment. There are many similarities between the
British and French laws on accomplice liability. Both systems have the same starting
point, what French scholars would describe as l’emprunt de la responsabilité, which can
literally be translated as ‘the borrowing of liability’. This is a way of explaining that the
liability of the accomplice is dependent on the liability of the principal offender: without
a principal offense, there can be no liability for complicity. Although the terminology is
different, the law in both systems essentially covers the help or encouragement provided
before or at the time of the principal offense. Once found liable, the accomplices are punished
as if they were the principal offenders. Contrary to the criminal law of the United
States and Germany, in French law, the act of complicity must have been accomplished
and not merely attempted. In Germany, courts have long relied on subjective factors to
draw distinctions between the forms of complicity: In order to be a perpetrator of any
kind, it is necessary, according to long-standing jurisprudence, to have the mindset of
a perpetrator (animus auctoris) or the will to commit the offense oneself. The characteristic
of a mere accomplice, in contrast, is that a person has the will to support another
(animus socii).


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