R v Geddes (1996) 160 J.P. 697, [1996] Crim LR 894

Key point

  • The facts suggest that lying in wait with prepared weapons and equipment to perform an offence does not amount to attempt


  • D climbed into school with a large knife and rolls of tape, it appears that he intended to kidnap a child but did not make an contact with the staff or children
  • D was convicted of attempted false imprisonment

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • Appeal allowed – no jury could properly have concluded that D’s acts had gone beyond the stage of mere preparation

Lord Bingham CJ 

  • The cases show that the line of demarcation between acts which are merely preparatory and acts which may amount to an attempt is not always clear or easy to recognise. There is no rule of thumb test.
  • To paraphrase s1(1) Criminal Attempts Act 1981, the defendant must have actually tried to commit the act in question or whether he had only got ready, or put himself in a position, or equipped himself to do so
  • D may have equipped himself, and put himself in a position to commit the crime when the opportunity arose, but it could not be said that he had actually tried or started to commit it


  • This case is a very strict interpretation of s1(1) 1981 Act – it goes further than Campbell by suggesting that even entering the premises where the intended crime is to be committed is not enough
  • This case is undesirable for public safety as it would require the police to wait for the defendant to attack his victim before arresting him