An “accessory before the fact” is a legal term that refers to someone who helps plan or facilitate a crime but is not present at the scene when the crime is committed. Unlike a principal by procurement, an accessory before the fact may not have directly encouraged or arranged the crime, but they provided some form of assistance or support that helped the crime to be committed.
For example, if someone loans a gun to someone else, knowing that the other person intends to commit a crime with it, they could be considered an accessory before the fact. Even though they did not directly participate in the crime, they provided the means to commit the crime and knew it was going to be committed.
An accessory before the fact can be charged and punished in the same way as the actual perpetrator of the crime, because their actions contributed to the commission of the crime. In some cases, an accessory before the fact may also be charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, if they were actively involved in planning or encouraging the commission of the crime.