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What is Conspiracy to Defraud?
Conspiracy to defraud is a serious offence which carries a potentially significant penalty if you are found guilty.
Here, we discuss exactly what conspiracy to defraud is, what penalties you could face if you are found guilty and what may happen if you are arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.
What does conspiracy to defraud mean?
It is important to note that conspiracy to defraud is considered a common law offence. This means that it had not been defined in a specific Act of Parliament and has instead been created by the courts.
Simply put, conspiracy to defraud is an agreement between two or more parties to carry out a plan which prejudices the rights of someone or deprives them of something to which they would otherwise be entitled.
Notably, you do not need to have participated in a specific act that is inherently criminal to be charged with conspiracy to defraud.
For example, renting out an office space as part of a plan to defraud someone could result in a charge of conspiracy to defraud, despite the act of renting an office not being a crime in itself.
It is also important to note that the alleged fraud does not need to have been carried out for someone to be charged with conspiracy to defraud. All that is required is proof that someone conspired or planned to defraud someone else.
Conspiracy to defraud is triable on indictment only, which means that prosecution will automatically take place in Crown Court, as opposed to a Magistrates’ Court.
What penalties can you face for conspiracy to defraud?
The severity of the penalty you can potentially receive for conspiracy to defraud will ultimately depend on the level of harm, or the value of the damages, and the role you are alleged to have taken in the offence.
Penalties can range from a fine, or medium level community order, all the way up to a custodial sentence of ten years.
How can conspiracy to defraud be proven?
Given that the offence of conspiracy to defraud focuses on a plan to commit a crime, there needs to be solid and unwavering evidence to prove that the accused had knowledge of the conspiracy and willingly entered into an agreement.
Prosecution teams will typically seek to acquire a range of evidence relating to the case, including computer records, paperwork, mobile phone records and witness testimonies.
Evidence may well come from the person who believes they were at risk of being defrauded or, in the case of businesses, whistle-blowers or auditors.
What defences are there against conspiracy to defraud?
Defences against conspiracy to defraud are likely to focus on a number of things. For instance, a defence case may focus on whether there was actual contact between the accused parties and, if there was contact, what was specifically agreed.
Depending on the circumstances, it may also be possible to challenge the admissibility of evidence. This could involve disputing the potential legality and authenticity of phone records or informant evidence.
A defence case could also focus on the actions of the police. If it can be found that there were mistakes, or the police failed to follow the correct procedures during the course of their investigations, this could result in a case being dismissed.
What happens if you are arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud?
If you are arrested for conspiracy to defraud, you will likely be taken to a police station for questioning. Where this is the case, it is vital that you request the presence of a criminal defence solicitor, who can provide carefully prepared advice and guidance.
When at the police station, you will always have the option of instructing a duty solicitor to represent you. However, duty solicitors may lack the specific expertise and experience to provide effective representation and legal defence.
Following a police interview for conspiracy to defraud, you may be:
- Charged with a specific offence
- Released under investigation
- Release with no further action
If you are charged with an offence, you will either be released on bail or remanded in custody to await trial.
Contact our serious fraud solicitors today
For advice on accusations of conspiracy to defraud, or any other criminal law matters, please contact our expert serious fraud solicitors in Bournemouth.
We are a dedicated criminal defence firm in Bournemouth, Dorset and our team are recognised as one of the leading teams of criminal lawyers in the region. We have a wealth of experience defending clients at the police station, during criminal investigations and at court hearings.
Our team have years of practical experience in handling serious fraud cases, including conspiracy to defraud. As a firm, we are members of the Law Society Criminal Litigation Accreditation Scheme for our high level of skills and ability to help our clients achieve positive outcomes.