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Alice went to a bar. Bob put a date rape drug into Alice's drink in such a way that Alice did not notice that. However, Alice was not raped, was not robbed and no further crime was committed against Alice. Perhaps Bob had to leave early for unrelated reasons, or perhaps someone saw Bob's action and raised an alarm, or for whatever other reason Bob was unable or unwilling to actually exploit Alice's drugged state.

What punishments can Bob face now?

2 Answers 2

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The Offences against the Person Act 1861 has

  1. Whosoever shall unlawfully apply or administer to or cause to be taken by, or attempt to apply or administer to or attempt to cause to be administered to or taken by, any person, any chloroform, laudanum, or other stupefying or overpowering drug, matter, or thing, with intent in any of such cases thereby to enable himself or any other person to commit, or with intent in any of such cases thereby to assist any other person in committing, any indictable offence, shall be guilty of felony, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to be kept in penal servitude for life.

In much the same way as the answer for Canada by Jen, a question might arise about whether this is a preparatory act or simply the administering of a noxious substance for no other purpose than that act itself. That's covered by section 24:

  1. Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously administer to or cause to be administered to or taken by any other person any poison or other destructive or noxious thing, with intent to injure, aggrieve, or annoy such person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to be kept in penal servitude.

A "misdemeanour" is what is now termed a summary offence so the maximum sentence would be six months' imprisonment.

Section 23 deals with the intent to cause grievous harm (rather than rape or mere annoyance at a prank). That carries a maximum ten-year sentence.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 specifically covers administering substances preparatory to an unconsensual sexual act:

  1. (1) A person commits an offence if he intentionally administers a substance to, or causes a substance to be taken by, another person (B)—
    (a) knowing that B does not consent, and
    (b) with the intention of stupefying or overpowering B, so as to enable any person to engage in a sexual activity that involves B.
    (2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
    (a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;
    (b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

If evidence to prove intent is lacking, then OATP s.24 would be available.

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See s. 246 of the Criminal Code:

Every one who, with intent to enable or assist himself or another person to commit an indictable offence, ... administers or causes to be administered to any person, or attempts to administer to any person, or causes or attempts to cause any person to take a stupefying or overpowering drug, matter or thing, ... is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life.

This is a helpful standalone offence because it sidesteps the question of whether this step of administering the drug would have been considered a more-than-merely-preparatory act towards a sexual assault.

Section 246 allows the prosecution to charge and convict without having to prove that the step of administering the drug was more than a merely preparatory act towards sexual assault (that is what would be required to be proved to establish attempted sexual assault).

Under s. 246, all that needs to be proven is the intent to enable a further offence. This is in contrast to an attempt, which would require further establishing that the act was more than merely preparatory. This is a notoriously fuzzy line, something that would complicate a trial and introduce uncertainty of conviction.

For comparison with what would be needed if directly charging attempted sexual assault, see this other Q&A: For a criminal attempt, when is an act more than merely preparatory?


While tangential to this question, I see that the comments raise the common question about how to prove the requisite intent. It is proven like any other fact in issue: through evidence (including testimony and its cross-examination) and the judge or jury's weighing of all the evidence, including the credibility and reliability of any witnesses.

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  • I may be dumb, but how does it sidestep the question of whether this step of administering the drug would have been considered more than merely preparatory towards a sexual assault? You cited the law: "Every one who, with intend to enable or assist himself or another person to commit an indictable offence" - This seems nasty, bc it seems that to prosecute the guy we need to prove he intended to commit further crimes after administering the drug, and proving the intention is difficult.
    – gaazkam
    Commented Oct 28, 2023 at 15:19
  • Thank you. Still, how to prove intent? This seems to me to be basically impossible to prove, we cannot read people's thoughts, can we? (Though perhaps this suffices for a separate question?)
    – gaazkam
    Commented Oct 28, 2023 at 15:34
  • Assume it is obvious that Bob did, indeed, put a drug in Alice's drink. Cameras recorded Bob looking around, making sure no one sees him and then putting something suspisious into Alice's glass. Chemical analysis shown that this was, indeed, a date rape drug. Can we consider it proven that Bob did so with the intention to commit further crimes? Bob defends himself in court by saying it was just meant to be a harmless prank and he absolutely had no intention to rape Alice, rob Alice or commit any other crimes against Alice. He yields that he was stupid and irresponsible, but thats all he admits
    – gaazkam
    Commented Oct 28, 2023 at 16:02
  • @gaazkam: As I understand it, the issue is that the defence that Bob would have no intention of adding a further offending act would run into the issue that Bob wouldn't need to be the person to commit or intend to rape Alice. If someone else (Say, for example, "Carl".) ends up raping Alice, Bob needs to defend against the accusation that he was trying to help Carl rape Alice. Like if a thief tried to argue they only unlocked a safe code, but didn't open the vault or rob the bank - they'd have to prove that they weren't intending for the other person to steal the money from the vault. Commented Oct 28, 2023 at 16:18
  • @AlexanderThe1st Assume no one ended up raping Alice and no one ended up robbing the bank. Bob administered the drug, but then he got an unrelated though urgent phone and left the bar early. The thief opened a safe code, but then he heard police syrens, this scared him so he escaped without loot. Can Bob be prosecuted for administering the drug alone, even though Alice was not raped? Can thief be prosecuted for opening the safe alone, even though no money ended up stolen?
    – gaazkam
    Commented Oct 28, 2023 at 17:04

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