What Is Conspiracy Offence? NSW

Conspiracy is a serious criminal offence in NSW and can carry significant penalties

Broadly speaking, it is an agreement between two or more people to commit an unlawful act or to use unlawful means to achieve a lawful end.

In NSW, the Crimes Act 1900 defines conspiracy as when someone agrees with one or more persons to do any of the following:

  • commit an indictable offence;
  • prevent the due administration of justice; or
  • defeat or obstruct the course of justice.

What are the Elements of Conspiracy?

Conspiracy in New South Wales has three distinct elements, each of which must be satisfied to establish an offence. Firstly, it must be demonstrated that two or more people agreed to commit an unlawful act. Secondly, it must be demonstrated that the agreement was made to carry out the unlawful act. Lastly, the parties to the agreement must have the necessary mens rea for the offence.

What is a common law conspiracy in NSW?

A common law conspiracy in New South Wales is an agreement between two or more people to commit a criminal act, where the parties intend to carry out the unlawful act and have a demonstrable mens rea for the alleged offence. This offence is not codified under the statute but has been established through centuries of legal precedents. Common law conspiracy in NSW is a serious offence, leading to significant penalties if convicted.

Examples of Conspiracy Charges cases in NSW

In New South Wales, several conspiracy cases have been successfully prosecuted. In 2013, four men were convicted for conspiring to commit fraud on the NSW Department of Education and Training. The men had hatched a plan to defraud the department by submitting false documents to receive payment for goods and services they had yet actually to provide.

In another case, a group of conspirators were charged with conspiring to transport firearms from New South Wales into Western Australia. The accused had planned to use false identities and documentation to conceal the weapons during their journey across state lines.

In 2017, two men were found guilty of conspiring to supply prohibited drugs after they were caught transporting large quantities of cocaine from Sydney to Melbourne. They had arranged to purchase the narcotics from another man before organising their transportation arrangements without alerting authorities.

Finally, in 2019, six people were charged with conspiring to commit grievous bodily harm after engaging in an altercation at a public park. The defendants had allegedly agreed before the incident that they would use violence against another individual if provoked during the altercation. 

What Defences Can Be Used Against Conspiracy Charges?

One defence against conspiracy charges is that the accused did not actually form an agreement with any other person to commit a crime. This can be shown by demonstrating that two or more people had no meeting of the minds about committing a criminal act.

Another defence is that the accused was merely present when a crime occurred and did not participate in criminal activity. Evidence such as surveillance video or witness testimony may prove the lack of participation.

In some cases, it may also be possible to prove duress, which is when an individual agrees to participate in a criminal act due to threats or pressure from others. To prove this, it must be shown that there was an immediate threat of violence and that the accused had no reasonable means of escape.

It is also possible to argue ignorance or mistake in law, which occurs when a person believes they are taking part in lawful activity and later finds out it is illegal. In these cases, there must be proof that the defendant did not know the act they were participating in was wrong or illegal.

Finally, individuals may also use entrapment as a defence against conspiracy charges, which occurs when law enforcement officers induce someone into committing a crime they would otherwise not have committed. This defence requires evidence showing that law enforcement officers encouraged the accused to commit the offence and/or used unfair tactics to get them to agree to participate in the criminal act.

What the Prosecutor Needs to Prove in Conspiracy Charges in NSW

In conspiracy charges, the prosecutor must be able to prove that there was an agreement between two or more people to commit a criminal act. To do this, they must establish that all parties were aware of the criminal plan and willingly participated in it.

The prosecutor must also show that one party intended to enter into a criminal agreement with at least one other person and that an overt act was committed by at least one of the parties to further the plan. An overt act refers to any physical action taken by one party in furtherance of a criminal scheme. This could include arranging meetings, planning strategies, or even distributing materials related to the crime.

The prosecutor must also be able to demonstrate that each party fully understood the nature and scope of the desired outcome, which would typically involve committing some form of illegal activity such as theft or fraud. Finally, they must prove beyond reasonable doubt that each participant intended to participate in bringing about actual criminal outcomes through their actions.

What are the charges of conspiracy to commit in NSW?

Conspiracy charges in NSW are taken very seriously by the judicial system. If found guilty, the penalties can be severe and life-changing. Conspiracy charges relate to the planning or agreement of two or more people to commit a criminal offence. Even if the actual crime is not committed, individuals can still be charged and convicted of conspiracy. Penalties can range from fines to imprisonment for many years, depending on the severity and nature of the conspiracy. Having the right legal representation when faced with conspiracy charges is crucial, as the consequences can be grave.