ⓘ Conspiracy (criminal)

Conspiracy (criminal)

ⓘ Conspiracy (criminal)

In criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime at some time in the future. Criminal law in some countries for some conspiracies may require that at least one overt act be undertaken in furtherance of that agreement, to constitute an offense. There is no limit on the number participating in the conspiracy and, in most countries, no requirement that any steps have been taken to put the plan into effect. For the purposes of concurrence, the actus reus is a continuing one and parties may join the plot later and incur joint liability and conspiracy can be charged where the co-conspirators have been acquitted or cannot be traced. Finally, repentance by one or more parties does not affect liability but may reduce their sentence.

An unindicted co-conspirator, or unindicted conspirator, is a person or entity that is alleged in an indictment to have engaged in conspiracy, but who is not charged in the same indictment. Prosecutors choose to name persons as unindicted co-conspirators for a variety of reasons including grants of immunity, pragmatic considerations, and evidentiary concerns.


1. England and Wales


  • Under section 21 the intended victim of the offence can not be guilty of conspiracy.
  • Under section 22 there can be no conspiracy where the only other persons to the agreement are

Conspiracy to murder

The offence of conspiracy to murder was created in statutory law by section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.


1.1. England and Wales Conspiracy to defraud

Section 52 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 preserved the common law offence of conspiracy to defraud.

Conspiracy to defraud was defined in Scott v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis per Viscount Dilhorne:

"to defraud" ordinarily means … to deprive a person dishonestly of something which his or of something to which he is or would or might but for the perpetration of the fraud be entitled.

.an agreement by two or more

he is guilty of conspiracy to commit the offence or offences in question.

Section 1A inserted by the Criminal Justice Terrorism and Conspiracy Act 1998, s5) bans conspiracies part of which occurred in England and Wales to commit an act or the happening of some other event outside the United Kingdom which constitutes an offence under the law in force in that country or territory. Many conditions apply including that prosecutions need consent from the Attorney General.


1.2. England and Wales Exceptions

  • Under section 21 the intended victim of the offence can not be guilty of conspiracy.
  • Under section 22 there can be no conspiracy where the only other persons to the agreement are

1.3. England and Wales Mens rea

There must be an agreement between two or more persons. The mens rea of conspiracy is a separate issue from the mens rea required of the substantive crime.

Lord Bridge in R v Anderson – quoted in R v Hussain said:

an essential ingredient in the crime of conspiring to commit a specific offence or offences under section 11 of the Act of 1977 is that the accused should agree that a course of conduct be pursued which he knows must involve the commission by one or more of the parties to the agreement of that offence or those offences.

Lord Bridge in R v Anderson also said:

But, beyond the mere fact of agreement, the necessary mens rea of the crime is, in my opinion, established if, and only if, it is shown that the accused, when he entered into the agreement, intended to play some part in the agreed course of conduct in furtherance of the criminal purpose which the agreed course of action was intended to achieve. Nothing less will suffice; nothing more is required.

It is not therefore necessary for any action to be taken in furtherance of the criminal purpose in order for a conspiracy offence to have been committed. This distinguishes a conspiracy from an attempt which necessarily does involve a person doing an act see Criminal Attempts Act 1981.


1.4. England and Wales Things said or done by one conspirator

Lord Steyn in R v Hayter said:

The rule about confessions is subject to exceptions. Keane, The Modern Law of Evidence 5th ed., 2000 p 385–386, explains:

In two exceptional situations, a confession may be admitted not only as evidence against its maker but also as evidence against a co-accused implicated thereby. The first is where the co-accused by his words or conduct accepts the truth of the statement so as to make all or part of it a confession statement of his own. The second exception, which is perhaps best understood in terms of implied agency, applies in the case of conspiracy: statements or acts of one conspirator which the jury is satisfied were said or done in the execution or furtherance of the common design are admissible in evidence against another conspirator, even though he was not present at the time, to prove the nature and scope of the conspiracy, provided that there is some independent evidence to show the existence of the conspiracy and that the other conspirator was a party to it.


1.5. England and Wales History

According to Edward Coke, conspiracy was originally a statutory remedy against false accusation and prosecution by "a consultation and agreement between two or more to appeal or indict an innocent man falsely and maliciously of felony, whom they cause to be indicted and appealed; and afterward the party is lawfully acquitted". In Poulterers Case, 77 Eng. Rep. 813 K.B. 1611, the court reasoned that the thrust of the crime was the confederating of two or more, and dropped the requirement that an actual indictment of an innocent take place, whereby precedent was set that conspiracy only need involve an attempted crime, and that the agreement was the act, which enabled subsequent holdings against an agreement to commit any crime, not just that originally proscribed.


1.6. England and Wales Conspiracy to trespass

Here, nine students, who were nationals of Sierra Leone, appealed their convictions for conspiracy to trespass, and unlawful assembly. These persons, together with others who did not appeal, conspired to occupy the London premises of the High Commissioner for Sierra Leone in order to publicize grievances against the government of that country. Upon their arrival at the Commission, they threatened the caretaker with an imitation firearm and locked him in a reception room with ten other members of the staff. The students then held a press conference on the telephone, but the caretaker was able to contact the police, who arrived, released the prisoners, and arrested the accused. In this case the Court felt that the public interest was clearly involved because of the statutory duty of the British Government to protect diplomatic premises. Lauton J. delivered the judgment of the Court of Appeal dismissing the appeal from conviction. See Kamara v Director of Public Prosecutions.


1.7. England and Wales Conspiracy to corrupt public morals and conspiracy to outrage public decency

These offences were at one time tied up with prostitution and homosexual behaviour. After the Second World War, due to the fame of several convicts, the Wolfenden report was commissioned by government, and was published in 1957. Thereupon came the publication of several books, both pro and contra the report. Of these books we can isolate two representatives: Lord Devlin wrote in favour of societal norms, or morals, while H. L. A. Hart wrote that the state could ill-regulate private conduct. In May 1965, Devlin is reported to have conceded defeat.

The Street Offences Act 1959 prohibited Englands prostitutes from soliciting in the streets. One Shaw published a booklet containing prostitutes names and addresses; each woman listed had paid Shaw for her advertisement. A 1962 majority in the House of Lords not only found the appellant guilty of a statutory offence living on the earnings of prostitution, but also of the "common law misdemeanour of conspiracy to corrupt public morals".

In the case of Knuller Publishing, Printing and Promotions Ltd v. D.P.P. which was decided 1973 in the House of Lords, the appellants were directors of a company which published a fortnightly magazine. On an inside page under a column headed "Males" advertisements were inserted inviting readers to meet the advertisers for the purpose of homosexual practices. The appellants were convicted on counts of

  • conspiracy to corrupt public morals, and
  • conspiracy to outrage public decency.

The appeal on count 1 was dismissed, while the appeal on count 2 was allowed because in the present case there had been a misdirection in relation to the meaning of "decency" and the offence of "outrage". The list of cases consulted in the ratio decidendi is lengthy, and the case of Shaw v. D.P.P. is a topic of furious discussion.


1.8. England and Wales Conspiracy to effect a public mischief

In Withers v Director of Public Prosecutions, which reached the House of Lords in 1974, it was unanimously held that conspiracy to effect a public mischief was not a separate and distinct class of criminal conspiracy. This overruled earlier decisions to the contrary effect. The Law Commission published a consultation paper on this subject in 1975.


1.9. England and Wales Conspiracy to murder

The offence of conspiracy to murder was created in statutory law by section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.


2. Northern Ireland

Statutory offence

See Part IV of the Criminal Attempts and Conspiracy Northern Ireland Order 1983 S.I. 1983/1120 N.I. 13).


3. United States

Conspiracy has been defined in the United States as an agreement of two or more people to commit a crime, or to accomplish a legal end through illegal actions. A conspiracy does not need to have been planned in secret to meet the definition of the crime.

Conspiracy law usually does not require proof of specific intent by the defendants to injure any specific person to establish an illegal agreement. Instead, usually the law requires only that the conspirators have agreed to engage in a certain illegal act.

Under most U.S. laws, for a person to be convicted of conspiracy, not only must he or she agree to commit a crime, but at least one of the conspirators must commit an overt act the actus reus in furtherance of the crime. However, in United States v. Shabani the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that this "overt act" element is not required under the federal drug conspiracy statute, 21 U.S.C. section 846.

The conspirators can be guilty even if they do not know the identity of the other members of the conspiracy.

California criminal law is somewhat representative of other jurisdictions. A punishable conspiracy exists when at least two people form an agreement to commit a crime, and at least one of them does some act in furtherance to committing the crime. Each person is punishable in the same manner and to the same extent as is provided for the punishment of the crime itself.

One example of this is The Han Twins Murder Conspiracy case, where one twin sister attempted to hire two youths to have her twin sister killed.

One important feature of a conspiracy charge is that it relieves prosecutors of the need to prove the particular roles of conspirators. If two persons plot to kill another and this can be proven, and the victim is indeed killed as a result of the actions of either conspirator, it is not necessary to prove with specificity which of the conspirators actually pulled the trigger. A conspiracy conviction requires proof that a the conspirators did indeed conspire to commit the crime, and b the crime was committed by an individual involved in the conspiracy. Proof of which individual it was is usually not necessary.

It is also an option for prosecutors, when bringing conspiracy charges, to decline to indict all members of the conspiracy though the existence of all members may be mentioned in an indictment. Such unindicted co-conspirators are commonly found when the identities or whereabouts of members of a conspiracy are unknown, or when the prosecution is concerned only with a particular individual among the conspirators. This is common when the target of the indictment is an elected official or an organized crime leader, and the co-conspirators are persons of little or no public importance. More famously, President Richard Nixon was named as an unindicted co-conspirator by the Watergate special prosecutor, in an event leading up to his eventual resignation.


3.1. United States Conspiracy against the United States

Conspiracy against the United States, or conspiracy to defraud the United States, is a federal offense in the United States of America under 18 U.S.C. § 371. The crime is that of two or more persons who conspire to commit an offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States.


3.2. United States Conspiracy against rights

The United States has a federal statute dealing with conspiracies to deprive a citizen of rights secured by the U.S. Constitution.


3.3. United States President Richard Nixon

The term unindicted co-conspirator was familiarized in 1974 when then U.S. President Richard Nixon was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in indictments stemming from the Watergate Investigation. Nixon was not indicted, because of concerns about whether the United States Constitution allowed the indictment of a sitting President see Executive privilege.


4. Japan

The United Nations special rapporteur Joseph Cannataci wrote a letter to the Japanese Prime-Minister, Shinzō Abe, expressing concerns about Anti-Conspiracy Bill. Hajime Yoshikawa is opposed to the Anti-Conspiracy Bill.Tadashi Shimizu is against the passed Anti-Conspiracy Bill. An opposition party recently accused the prime minister of influencing a government decision to fund and approve a veterinary school at a university owned by Mr Abes friend.Edward Snowden said "This is the beginning of a new wave of mass surveillance in Japan, not well explained focuses on terrorism and everything else thats not related to terrorism – things like taking plants from the forestry reserve, And the only real understandable answer to the governments desire to pass the that this is a bill that authorizes the use of surveillance in new ways because now everyone can be a criminal. And Snowden said it should include strong guarantees of human rights and privacy and ensure that those guarantees are "not enforced through the words of politicians but through the actions of courts." "This means in advance of surveillance, in all cases the government should seek an individualized warrant, and individualized authorization that this surveillance is lawful and appropriate in relationship to the threat thats presented by the police," he said.


5. International law

Conspiracy law was used at the Nuremberg Trials for members of the Nazi leadership charged with participating in a "conspiracy or common plan" to commit international crimes. This was controversial because conspiracy was not a part of the European civil law tradition. Nonetheless, the crime of conspiracy continued in international criminal justice, and was incorporated into the international criminal laws against genocide.

Of the Big Five, only the French Republic exclusively subscribed to the civil law; the USSR subscribed to the socialist law, the U.S. and the U.K. followed the common law; and the Republic of China did not have a cause of action at this particular proceeding. In addition, both the civil and the customary law were upheld. The jurisdiction of the International Military Tribunal was unique and extraordinary at its time, being a court convened under the law of nations and the laws and customs of war. It was the first of its sort in human history, and found several defendants not guilty.

  • Masonic conspiracy theories are conspiracy theories involving Freemasonry hundreds of such conspiracy theories have been described since the late 18th
  • The Hindu German Conspiracy Note on the name was a series of plans between 1914 and 1917 by Indian nationalist groups to attempt Pan - Indian rebellion
  • Vast right - wing conspiracy is a conspiracy theory popularized by a 1995 memo by political opposition researcher Chris Lehane and then referenced in
  • The Delhi Conspiracy case, also known as the Delhi - Lahore Conspiracy refers to a conspiracy in 1912 to assassinate the then Viceroy of India, Lord Hardinge
  • Unlike thoughts, words can be considered acts in criminal law. For example, threats, perjury, conspiracy and solicitation are offenses in which words can
  • under: s.7 of the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875 Offenses under the Criminal Damage Act 1991 are also scheduled. Criminal Justice Terrorist

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