Specialist conspiracy solicitors with current experience of these cases may be an advantage to the defendant. We have represented individuals accused of being professional criminals, and many of these have been charged with conspiracy. In a conspiracy case, a member of a gang or group who is only a ‘bit-player’ can end up drawn into a serious trial with professional criminals, and a long custodial sentence can result.
Our conspiracy solicitors’ case studies
We have represented clients for hundreds of allegations involving conspiracy over the last four decades, and continue to do so. We have included below some case studies of a real cases we defended and a brief guide to conspiracy and the issues often encountered in these cases.
Case Study 1 – Conspiracy to Murder
Our client was Alan Lord, alleged ringleader of the Strangeways Prison Riot in April 1990. He had been charged along with several other defendants of conspiracy to murder an inmate during the prisoners’ uprising, which led to the loudest calls for prison reform in a hundred years.
At the time, some people were of the opinion that this was a show trial, botched together to punish the Strangeways Rioters.
The proceedings lasted 5 months, and were regularly reported in the National and International Press, as well as TV News Channels. The case was so large and complex that it was split into two separate trials. Our specialist conspiracy solicitors represented one defendant in each trial. Verdict: Not Guilty of Conspiracy to Murder.
Case Study 2 – Conspiracy to Murder
Our client was accused with 4 other people of conspiracy to murder a man in an alleged drugs-related assassination attempt, involving a semi-automatic handgun.
Police forensic examination had shown that our client’s clothing had traces of gunpowder residue on it. Part of that residue was present on the inside of his trousers, indicating that a gun had been present there after having been fired.
Our conspiracy solicitors attacked the prosecution case on the basis that the alleged victims of this ‘assassination attempt’ were known drug dealers, and that this incident was effectively part of a turf war. There was evidence that our client was intimidated by both sides, and that he could have been present merely as a link between the groups. Verdict: Not Guilty of Conspiracy to Murder.
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, an experienced conspiracy solicitor should know that 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.
How Conspiracy relates to 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.
This means that trained experienced conspiracy solicitors will often find themselves in proceedings acting on behalf of their clients against the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, and specialist police departments such as the Metropolitan Police’s Flying Squad. The role of informants is often particularly important in cases involving organised crime.
Strategy and Evidence in Conspiracy Cases
Cases involving organised crime often involve police informants, and an experienced and specialist conspiracy solicitor will often battle for several months 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 be forced to offer no evidence, dropping the charges.
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.
It is not only a legal exercise, but it can often also be a battle of wits. Analysing the prosecution behavior during the early stage of proceedings can give an indication of where the ongoing police inquiries are going, and what can be expected at trial.
Often mobile phone evidence (see Robbery / Armed Robbery section for more details on this) 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.