Assisting Offenders

Ashmans Solicitors – specialist solicitors representing UK suspects questioned on and defendants charged with assisting an offender

It is against the law to help an offender to escape apprehension or prosecution, to hinder the investigation into them, or to destroy evidence related to their case.

Even if you played no part in the actual crime, if you knowingly do anything in order to stop the offender from being caught, you will be arrested and charged.

Example of this are:

⦁    Hiding a principal offender
⦁    Hiding the weapon used for an assault or robbery
⦁    Otherwise helping a principal offender to avoid arrest
⦁    Washing the clothes worn by a principal offender to destroy potential forensic evidence
⦁    Lying to the police to protect principal offenders from investigation or prosecution (for example, providing false alibis)

Assisting an offender is also considered as perverting the course of justice. This is a criminal offence in its own right. At times, there may also be an overlap between the offence of assisting an offender and other crimes like obstructing a constable, wasting police time, or concealing offences someone could be arrested on.

It is not, however, an offence for some professionals to give certain information or assistance to an offender. A lawyer, doctor, or minister of religion may be given professional privilege for assisting an offender as long as it doesn’t help them commit the crime.

Examples of assisting offenders

Assisting an offender can, of course, take many forms. Some notable cases include:

⦁    A man was given a 2½ year prison sentence in 2010 after hiding an armed robbery suspect in his attic. The fact that the firearm used by principal offender was purchased from the man some months before was taken into account in his sentencing, but was not charged separately.

⦁    In 2015, four people were charged with assisting offenders after the hiding the body parts of a teenager girl to help the girl’s step-brother avoid getting caught for her murder.

Statutory or common law offence

Depending on the nature of the offence you are assisting, you could face up to ten years in prison.

Assisting offenders is a serious offence so, wherever possible, it will be charged as a statutory offence rather than a common law offence.

What this means is that the offence will be charged using set written rules rather than on a case-by-case basis as ruled by a judge. However, the common law offence of perverting the course of justice will be considered over the statutory offence of assisting offenders when:

⦁    The assisting is made to prevent or hinder the trial process rather than preventing the arrest of the principal offender,
⦁    The facts of the case are so serious that the court’s sentencing powers for the statutory offence are inadequate, or when
⦁    There is little valid evidence of the principal crime, or proof that the accused knew about it when they assisted the principal offender.

Assisting an offender – jail time

The maximum penalty that you can receive for acting as an accessory to a crime is determined by the principal offence committed. This means the sentence you receive will be based on the penalty applicable to the offence you assisted.

Where the maximum penalty for the principal offence is life imprisonment, such as a murder charge, the maximum sentence you can receive as an accessory is ten years in prison.

If the principal offence has a maximum penalty of ten years or more, but not a life sentence, you could face a maximum of seven years. If the principal offender could face between seven and ten years, the maximum penalty for an accessory is four years imprisonment.

In any other case, the penalty for assisting an offender will be either two years or equal to that of the principal offence, whichever is lower.

If you guarantee a suspect’s bail and either know or reasonably suspect that they have breached a term of the bail agreement, you must take reasonable steps to inform the police. If you do not, you may have to pay some or all of the amount guaranteed.

Specialist criminal law solicitors with experience in defending suspects questioned on and defendants charged with assisting an offender

Do you need help over a charge related to assisting an offender? Call 03330096275 (or our emergency 24h line 03330096275) to talk in confidence with one of the UK’s leading criminal law defence solicitors, Ashmans Solicitors.

You can also use out free online enquiry form or email us at We’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.

We communicate in plain English with all clients. Depending on your circumstances, Legal Aid may be available.


Have you been arrested by the police or charged with any Fraud matter? If so, call Ashmans Solicitors in confidence now on 03330 096 275 (24hrs).

Our expert lawyers are here to provide you with the very best in legal advice and representation 24 hours a day. You can also use our free online enquiry form or email us at .

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