R v Griffiths [1969] 1 QB 589

Conspiracy – Knowledge of Co-Conspirators – Fraud

Facts

The defendant was a seller of limes who entered into a conspiracy with seven lime farmers to defraud the Ministry of Agriculture by submitting fraudulent subsidy claims.  Each of the farmers had entered into this fraudulent agreement with the defendant, but there was no evidence to suggest that any of them were even aware of the existence of the other farmers and were not aware that they were also part of a single conspiracy.  Instead, the evidence suggested that the lime dealer himself had entered into the same agreement with several different lime farmers at the same time.  All however were charged with a single count of conspiracy and convicted.  They appealed.

Issue

Whether there was a single conspiracy to commit fraud on the ministry between all of the defendants considering their lack of knowledge of the other conspirators.  Whether the defendants should have been charged with separate charges of conspiracy with the lime supplier instead.

Held

The appeals were allowed and the convictions quashed.  As there was no evidence that the lime farmers were aware of the conspiracy between the other farmers and the lime seller, they could not be guilty of a single conspiracy.  Instead, each should have been charged with a separate count of conspiracy between themselves and the lime seller.   In law, for a single conspiracy, all conspirators must join the one agreement, each with the others in order to constitute the conspiracy.  Each may join at any time, and whilst they do not have to know the other conspirators, they have to be aware that there are other conspirators.