What is conspiracy to defraud?September 20, 2023
Conspiracy to defraud is a complex legal concept that can cause significant concern for individuals facing prosecution or investigation. Often misunderstood, this offence carries serious implications and requires specialised legal representation; we advise seeking a serious fraud solicitor to discuss your case further.
What is Conspiracy? At its core, a conspiracy refers to a plan between two or more individuals to commit an offence. The crucial element is that the offence does not necessarily have to be executed for the conspiracy to occur. In the context of conspiracy to defraud, individuals can be charged with the offence even if the fraudulent act has not occurred.
Constituents of Conspiracy to Defraud:
- Conspiracy to expose a person to loss or risk (economic loss): This conspiracy involves an agreement among two or more people to dishonestly deprive someone of something they are entitled to. It can also encompass situations where individuals are exposed to economic risks or disadvantages. Importantly, there doesn’t have to be an intention to deceive the person for this offence to occur.
- Conspiracy to deceive a person in a position of responsibility (non-economic loss): In this variant of the offence, two or more individuals form a dishonest agreement to defraud someone by deceiving them into acting against their duty. Instances may involve deceiving public officials, resulting in fraud, or individuals breaching their obligations towards clients or employers.
Conspiracy to defraud is utilised instead of specific Fraud Act offences in certain scenarios. Why Conspiracy to Defraud over Fraud Act Offences? Some reasons include:
- Unclear individual culpability: When both a fraud and a conspiracy can be established, it is challenging to determine the level of involvement or individual culpability within the conspiracy.
- Avoiding complexity and expense: Charging individuals separately for multiple Fraud Act offences can lead to a complex case, necessitating numerous charges or separate trials. Using conspiracy to defraud streamlines the process, avoiding needless complexity and expense.
Additional Agreements Leading to Conspiracy Charges
Aside from the situations mentioned above, other types of agreements can result in the prosecution choosing conspiracy to defraud. These may include agreements to conceal a bank’s losses, directors covering secret profits from a company, or falsifying applications to secure loans that lenders would otherwise reject.
Understanding Evidence in Conspiracy Cases
In conspiracy cases, defendants may have varying degrees of involvement and culpability. Frequently, criminal operations employ a “fall guy” who assumes the role of the least significant player in the fraud while the major orchestrators remain concealed. The police investigation often focuses on apparent connections between seemingly innocent defendants and the more evidently guilty ones. These connections can be established through phone billing evidence, money trails, such as transfers or unexplained assets, and covert surveillance.
Strategy in Conspiracy to Defraud Cases
Contact a serious fraud solicitor who will help you in preparing a robust defence in a conspiracy to defraud case requiring a tailored approach. Some fundamental expectations from serious fraud solicitors may include:
- Business and commerce knowledge, if applicable to the case.
- Anticipating the prosecution’s strategy and motivations to effectively counter them.
- In-depth understanding of the case’s evidence.
- Building a comprehensive understanding of the client and the relationship dynamics within the case.
- Selecting the right serious fraud solicitor with expertise in conspiracy to defraud cases.
The choice of strategy will depend on the specific circumstances and the strength of the prosecution’s case. Not engaging with the police or the prosecution barrister might be prudent if the conspiracy charge seems desperate rather than convenient.
Dishonesty in Conspiracy to Defraud Cases
Dishonesty plays a pivotal role in conspiracy to defraud cases, as fraud cannot be established without proof of dishonest intent. The test for dishonesty is purely objective, with a jury evaluating actions against those of a reasonable and honest person archetype. Participants in a conspiracy who were unaware of the fraudulent nature of their actions or acted in good faith cannot be convicted.
Court Proceedings and Potential Sentences
Conspiracy to defraud cases are exclusively heard in Crown Courts as common law offences established through legal precedents rather than specific legislation. Convictions carry penalties of up to ten years imprisonment, fines, or both. However, maximum sentences are rare and typically reserved for the most severe cases.
Conspiracy to defraud is a complex offence that should not be underestimated. It is crucial for individuals facing such charges to understand its intricacies, including the definitions, types, evidence requirements, and potential penalties. Seeking specialised legal representation from experienced serious fraud solicitors ensures the best possible defence and helps safeguard individuals’ rights throughout the legal process. At Cunninghams, we have highly trained serious fraud solicitors; you can access confidential and effective assistance from experienced solicitors based in Manchester and London, with over 20 years of experience defending clients’ serious fraud charges. Our team of experienced fraud solicitors have the expertise to help you build a strong case and to support you through each stage.
Cunninghams initial advice is always free of charge and can be contacted at 0800 051 2542 or enquire online.