Old Bailey Solicitors

Understanding Attempted Murder: Legalities, Defences & Consequences

Attempted murder is one of the most serious criminal offences and is treated as seriously as the completed offence of murder. It is triable only on indictment, meaning it can only be tried in the Crown Court and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for the most serious of cases. However, with the right criminal defence solicitors, it is possible to successfully put forward one of the available defences where relevant or apply the correct mitigation to ensure you receive the best outcome possible for your case. At Old Bailey Solicitors, our highly skilled and dedicated solicitors have significant experience with these types of cases and are well equipped to ensure that your case is given the work and attention needed for a successful conclusion. If you are under investigation or facing prosecution for an attempted murder offence, contact Old Bailey Solicitors as soon as possible in order to obtain the quality representation required to get the best result possible for your case.

What is Attempted Murder?

Attempted murder is said to have occurred when a person does an act which is ‘more than merely preparatory’ to the commission of the offence of murder and where that person has the intent to kill the complainant.  In other words, attempted murder refers to a situation where an individual does an act, intending to kill the complainant, but either fails to do so or where the act is aborted part way.

Unlike murder, which can require either an intention to kill or an intention to cause grievous bodily harm, attempted murder is only committed if there is an intention to kill. Therefore, for an individual to be convicted of attempted murder, it must be proven that they intended to kill the complainant and not just severely injure them.  In this way, attempted murder is actually more difficult to prove than murder.

‘More than Merely Preparatory’

‘More than merely preparatory’ refers to the ‘actus reus’ part of the offence, meaning the actions which must have been proven to have been carried out for the offence to have been committed. An act is considered to be more than ‘merely preparatory’ if the defendant has put himself into a position where there is no turning back, rather than simply preparing for the main commission of the offence.

Examples of ‘more then merely preparatory acts’ in relation to the offence of attempted murder could include:

  • Calculated planning
  • Selection and use of a weapon
  • Carrying out a severe attack

It is not necessary for severe injuries to have been caused, or for any physical contact or assault to have taken place at all, as long as it can be proven that the individual had the intention to kill the complainant.


As well as making simple factual denials, there are a number of defences to the offence of attempted murder.

Due to the emphasis on the mental intention aspect of the offence, one specific defence to attempted murder is insanity. Insanity acts as a full defence in relation to this offence.

In order for the defence of insanity to apply to a case, it must be proven that, at the time of committing the offence, the individual was labouring under ‘such a defect of reason’, from a ‘disease of the mind’ that:

  • They did not know the nature or the quality of the act being done; and
  • That they did not know what was being done was wrong

The supposed ‘disease of the mind’ can be permanent, temporary, organic or functional.

The onus is on the defence to prove that on the balance of probabilities that the defendant was labouring under the defect at the time of the commission of the offence. It is then up to a jury to determine whether or not the defence has been able to prove this successfully.

Where a defendant is found to be not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity, the Court may then decide between a number of disposal options. These are most likely to include a hospital order or a supervision order, to allow for treatment to be given to the defendant in order to consider the individual’s risk to the public.

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Attempted murder is one of the most serious offences and carries significant custodial sentences as a result.

Sentences for attempted murder can range from a 3-year custodial sentence to life imprisonment. The likely sentence an individual would receive for conviction of attempted murder varies on the culpability of the accused individual and the harm caused to the complainant. For example, the court is likely to consider the extent of planning carried out by the individual in relation to the attempt. A Judge is also likely to consider the amount of harm caused to the complainant, either physical or psychological or both.


In most cases, there is likely to be factors which may help in to mitigate the offence and may help to lower the sentence imposed. These are likely to include factors such as:

  • Remorse shown for the defendant’s actions
  • Proof that the act was carried out following significant provocation from the complainant
  • History of abuse from the complainant to the defendant
  • Mental disorders falling short of insanity
  • Age or lack of maturity

How can Old Bailey Solicitors Help?

Attempted murder is one of the most serious offences that an individual can be accused of. It is therefore vital if you are accused of such an offence that you seek legal advice as soon as possible, in order for a relevant defence to be put forward at trial or for the correct mitigation to be used in order for you to get the best outcome possible for your case.

At Old Bailey Solicitors, our experienced solicitors have dealt with cases of attempted murder from the earliest stages of interview at the police station, to winning trials in the Crown Court. Our firm is dedicated to carefully examining your case and putting the work in to protect and uphold your rights and freedom. Old Bailey Solicitors also has extensive experience with appointing and instructing the necessary experts, such as medical and forensic experts, in order to ensure your case is prepared as fully as possible.

Here at Old Bailey Solicitors, we appreciate that criminal proceedings can be daunting and stressful, especially in relation to such serious offences. Old Bailey Solicitors are able to help you through the process as well as ensuring that you receive the best outcome for your case.

Words are just not enough to express my gratitude towards your dedication, hard work, perseverance and attention to details, let alone your professionalism throughout my case at the Court today.

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