WHEN IS A CONSPIRACY THE WRONG CONSPIRACY?
Helen Johnson Solicitor Advocate at Emery Johnson Astills
When the prosecution decide to charge an offence of conspiracy they have to prove that there was an agreement to commit a criminal offence, eg to supply drugs.
Evidence of that agreement can be inferred and often relies upon mobile phone evidence, so called, cell site evidence tracking the location of a mobile phone at a certain date and time and the pattern of calls between alleged conspirators.
However, if the prosecution choose to prosecute a conspiracy charge rather than the offence itself, for example “Conspiracy to supply drugs…” not “Being concerned in the supply of drugs” or “Possession with intent to supply drugs…” then they must prove that the conspirators had a common purpose.
What this means is that the prosecution must make the jury sure that the defendants are guilty of the actual conspiracy charged.
Recently the Court of Appeal overturned a conviction at Birmingham Crown Court where the defendant had been charged with Conspiracy to Supply Cannabis. It was the prosecution case that he was the courier acting on the direction of the first defendant and collecting and dropping off cannabis to the other defendants.
This defendant was the person who was found to be in possession of cannabis when the police stopped him. In addition there was surveillance evidence of the defendant meeting two unnamed men in a white van earlier on the day he was stopped. The two men were never identified and formed no part of the prosecution case.
The jury convicted him of the offence. They acquitted 3 of the other defendants but couldn’t reach a decision about the first defendant, the man described as the ‘controlling hand’ by the prosecution and at a retrial this defendant was acquitted.
We argued that our client’s conviction was unsafe. We submitted to the court of appeal that he had been convicted of a different conspiracy to the one the prosecution chose to prosecute.
On Friday 13 October 2017 the Court of Appeal agreed overturning the conviction as unsafe.
When is a conspiracy not a conspiracy? When it’s a different conspiracy to the one the prosecution sought to prove.