The Director of the Serious Fraud Squad has stated:
“When two or more people agree to deprive a person of something that belongs to him, or in the alternative ignore his proper rights, the law allows a charge of conspiracy to defraud based on dishonesty and suppression of evidence and a custodial sentence would follow”
A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to do something illegal, or to do something legal by illegal means. It is not even necessary to establish that the act they contemplated was criminal.
There are two categories of conspiracy which are criminal even though the agreed object would not be criminal if done by one person alone.
- Conspiracy to commit a civil wrong.
- Conspiracy to commit an act which is neither a crime nor a civil wrong, but which can be calculated to ‘injure the public’.
The penalties for conspiracy are a fine or imprisonment. There is no limit. A court can pass a heavier sentence for conspiracy to commit an offence than for the offence itself.
The fact that a person doesn’t have to commit an offence or break a law before he can be charged with conspiracy has not been overlooked by the police.
The statutory offence of criminal conspiracy:The Criminal Law Act 1977 redefined conspiracy and put it on a statutory footing. The offence-creating provision is section 1(1). So far as material for present purposes section 1(1), as substituted by the Criminal Attempts Act 1981, provides:
‘…if a person agrees with any other person or persons that a course of conduct shall be pursued which, if the agreement is carried out in accordance with their intentions … (a) will necessarily amount to or involve the commission of any offence or offences by one or more of the parties to the agreement …he is guilty of conspiracy to commit the offence or offences in question.’
The offence therefore lies in making an agreement. Implicitly, the subsection requires also that the parties intend to carry out their agreement. The offence is complete at that stage. The offence is complete even if the parties do not carry out their agreement.