The Law on Conspiracy
Conspiracy effectively means being involved in an offence, or the planning of an offence in a group of two or more people. Although ‘Conspiracy’ is often referred to as an offence that someone can be charged with, it is not actually an offence at all, but a version of the offence alleged.
If someone plans a bank robbery with other people, even if they do not complete or start the robbery itself, then they could be guilty of conspiracy to commit the offence of robbery.
To make out conspiracy, the prosecution must show that there are two ingredients:
• an agreement between two or more parties
• that agreement is to commit an offence
If the planners do not know that the offence is impossible in the circumstances (because, for example, the bank has closed down), then they can still be convicted of conspiracy.
Two people cannot be guilty of conspiracy if the only other person in the plan is the first person’s wife, husband or partner, or if they are a child, or an intended victim of the offence.
The agreement to commit the offence must be real and the major details must be decided for conspiracy to be made out.
The defendants must know exactly what the facts relating to the planned crime are, so a defendant who knows that he’s in a criminal gang but doesn’t know the major details of the criminal offence that the gang is planning cannot be found guilty of conspiracy.
Conspiracy and Organised Crime
Every organised and well run operation requires planning and coordination of workers, and the same is the case for organised criminal activity. It is no surprise that cases involving alleged organised crime, whether they are gun running, drug importation, or fake passport production are often charged as conspiracy to commit the offence alleged.
The role of the informant is often particularly important in cases involving organised crime
Cases involving organised crime often involve police informants, and a good defence strategy will often include battling with the prosecution over the disclosure of the identities of sources of informants. Occasionally in cases involving prosecution witnesses who the wish to remain anonymous, the prosecution will even offer no evidence, dropping charges to protect the witness.
Knowledge of police practice is an essential ingredient in the preparation of any serious criminal case. It is of particular importance in cases involving long and detailed police investigations, and surveillance evidence.
The usual rules relating to defence analysis of forensic evidence, including mobile phone evidence and surveillance evidence apply especially for cases involving allegations of organised crime.
Often mobile phone can be of crucial importance to a prosecution case which tries to link several defendants together. But even mobile phone evidence cannot often prove the content of phone calls, only the content of texts and ‘traffic’ between different numbers – i.e. length of call and who the call was to.
As mentioned above, for conspiracy to exist, the prosecution must show that all the parties knew the facts of any planned offence. Mobile phone evidence showing people talking to each other cannot show this on its own.