If I were to share an observation that I made using publicly available information/knowledge, and then somebody acted upon this to commit a crime, could I be held liable in any way?

For example, let's say that I observe from a public vantage point some security guards at a building that fall asleep. I then post online in a public place the following: "I saw the security guards at Building 123 had fallen asleep, that place would be easy to rob!"

If somebody who I did not know had intent to commit robbery then went and robbed the building, could I be held liable for providing the information about the sleeping security guards and 'planting the seed' for the crime?

An alternate example would be for fraud. Let's say I publicised a potential fraud/scam method that I had thought of - with the intention of raising awareness and sharing the idea, could I be held liable if somebody actually committed fraud or scammed somebody using my idea?

I am interested in the UK law on this.

  • It would be a pity to have to throw all the mystery writers in the UK in jail. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 18:01
  • @DavidThornley Good point actually, I hadn't thought about it that way. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 18:22

1 Answer 1


By my understanding you should not be held criminallly liable.

In order to be held guilty of a crime the prosecution needs to show the elements of the crime are met. One of these elements is "mens rea" - ie guilty mind/intent. According to your question you lacked intent to commit the crime, so the prosecution can't prove it, so their case must fail.

Note that in some places there are "crimes" which are strict liability - I'm ignoring these abominations here, as they are generally a grey area between criminal and civil law where freedom is not at stake and do not seem in the spirit of your question.

  • 1
    Good answer (+1). The publication would be sanctioned only if it is unjustifiably or unreasonably detailed, like "OMG these kids figured out they can produce an explosive by heating 20 oz. of xyz sulfate mixed with 1/4 pound of carboxylic blahblahblah available at any drugstore!". Or if, in releasing your discovery of a software buffer overflow exploit, you publish a proof of concept which consists of shellcode that truly creates havoc in the system. But denouncing the sleeping guards would not subject you to liability, more so since you pinpoint negligence which ought to be cured. Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 14:56

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