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Criminal Conspiracy Offences Explained

Author: Niall Hearty  2 May 2024
4 min read

What is meant by conspiracy to commit crime?

A criminal conspiracy involves a person making an agreement with one or more individuals (known as conspiring) to carry out a criminal act. 

To prove criminal conspiracy, the prosecution has to show that the defendant intended to be part of the agreement to commit an unlawful act. But the unlawful act does not have to be committed for a person to be found guilty of conspiracy. For example, a person can be convicted of conspiracy to murder if the murder is never carried out.

What are criminal conspiracy offences?

Criminal conspiracy offences relate to the planning of a crime rather than the actual committing of that crime. Under the Criminal Law Act 1977, that agreement to carry out the crime is the criminal act of conspiracy.

Any criminal conspiracy charge will carry a serious penalty. The penalty for the planning of a crime (the conspiracy) can be as severe as the penalty for actually carrying out the crime.

Types of Criminal Conspiracy Offence

There is a wide variety of criminal conspiracy offences.

Examples of such offences include:

  • Conspiracy to Defraud: Conspiring with another to dishonestly defraud a person or organisation out of something.
  • Conspiracy to Commit Robbery: This can mean the planning of a robbery or helping the robbers in some way, such as taking them to the scene of the robbery or providing weapons.
  • Conspiracy to Commit Burglary: Being involved in planning the burglary or helping the burglar enter the building without permission to steal property, cause damage or harm an individual.
  • Conspiracy to Rape: When two or more people plan together to commit the offence of rape or when someone helps the rapist commit the offence.
  • Conspiracy to Murder: The planning of the unlawful killing of another person and/or helping the murderer by, for example, providing a weapon or transport.

There are many serious offences where a person could be charged with conspiracy to commit that offence. As well as the above, further examples include conspiracy to;

  • Import or supply drugs.
  • Engage in money laundering.
  • Engage in bribery and corruption.
  • Commit cybercrime.
  • Traffic humans.
  • Kidnap.
  • Blackmail.
  • Commit a violent act.
  • Pervert the course of justice.

Is criminal conspiracy an inchoate offence?

Yes. Criminal conspiracy offences are inchoate offences. This means that they are a crime that is committed when taking a step towards committing another crime.  In legal terms, the inchoate offence is committed with the intention of committing the target offence.

For example, a person can be punished for conspiracy to murder, which is an inchoate offence committed on the way to actually committing the murder, which would be the target offence.  

Other types of inchoate offence are:

  • Attempt: This is when someone tries to commit an offence but fails to do so. The attempt at committing the crime is the inchoate offence. For example, someone who tries to rob a bank but fails could be charged with the inchoate offence of attempted robbery.
  • Solicitation: This is where someone offers another person money (or something else) to try and persuade that person to commit a crime. For example, if Mr A offers Mr B £1,000 to kill Ms C, Mr A is guilty of soliciting the murder of Ms C.

Conspiracy differs from these other two inchoate offences as a person can be charged with conspiracy and the target offence. But this is not the case with attempt and solicitation.

So a person could be charged with both conspiracy to commit murder and murder. But a person could not be charged with attempted murder and murder or soliciting murder and murder.

All criminal conspiracy offences are extremely serious and can lead to  lengthy prison sentences. 

Is criminal conspiracy an indictable offence?

Criminal conspiracy is an indictable offence. Indictable offences are the most serious category of criminal offence and can only be dealt with in the Crown Court, which has the power to impose tougher sentences than other courts.

A person charged with an indictable offence will have to first appear before the Magistrates Court but the case will be sent immediately to the Crown Court to be heard by a judge and jury.

What are the legal consequences for someone convicted of criminal conspiracy?

The penalties for criminal conspiracy can include a prison sentence, a fine and the seizure of assets.  

The maximum sentence for a conspiracy offence is based on the maximum penalty for the offence that was being planned (known as the target offence). To take an example, the maximum sentence for murder is life imprisonment - so if someone is convicted of conspiracy to murder, they could face life imprisonment.

Similarly, someone convicted of conspiracy to steal could face up to seven years in jail as that is the maximum sentence for theft.

Criminal Conspiracy Offence Sentencing Factors

The type and size of punishment given to a person convicted of a criminal conspiracy offence will depend on the type of crime and a number of other factors.

These include:

  • The role that person played in the conspiracy and the extent of their involvement.
  • The offence that was being planned.
  • The length of time over which any offences took place.
  • Whether the person was aware they were involved in a criminal conspiracy.
  • Whether any pressure, intimidation or coercion was used against that person.
  • Whether the person pleaded guilty.
  • Any previous convictions that person has.
  • Whether or not the crime went ahead (although this Is only relevant in certain cases).

What proof is required to convict someone of criminal conspiracy?

In order to convict someone of a criminal conspiracy offence, the prosecution must prove:

  • An agreement was made between two or more parties.
  • The agreement was to commit a criminal offence.
  • That person intended to be a party to an agreement to do an unlawful act.
  • That person and another knew or intended that what was being planned was an offence.

This can be difficult for a prosecution. They must convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that the accused person (the defendant) knowingly took part in a conspiracy to commit a crime. 

But, in most cases, it will be unlikely that there will be much evidence available for the prosecution to use – few people will leave written or recorded evidence of their plans to commit an offence.

Prosecutors will have to use information such as phone records, witness statements and physical evidence such as fingerprints or DNA to try and build a case that can persuade a jury of a person’s guilt.

Responding to Allegations of Criminal Conspiracy

Anyone who Is accused of a criminal conspiracy offence needs to seek legal advice from those who are experienced in assessing a prosecution case. In such cases, a strategy has to be devised and carried out to identify and challenge all weak areas of the prosecution’s arguments. 

Rahman Ravelli’s specialist solicitors are adept at challenging all aspects of prosecution allegations to secure the very best possible outcome for clients. Their experience, expertise and tailored approach to each and every case has brought repeated success.

Niall Hearty C 07998

Niall Hearty

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niall.hearty@rahmanravelli.co.uk
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Niall has a wealth of corporate crime expertise and an ability to coordinate global bribery and corruption cases. His achievements in such investigations have made him a logical choice for corporate clients.

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