General Principles

Actus Reus

  • The actus reus of the crime of conspiracy lies in the formation of an agreement, tacit or express, between two or more individuals, to act together in pursuit of a mutual criminal objective. 

    • Co-conspirators share a common goal borne out of a meeting of the minds whereby each agrees to act together with the other to achieve a common goal.

  • A conspiracy is not established merely by proof of knowledge of the existence of a scheme to commit a crime or by the doing of acts in furtherance of that scheme. Neither knowledge of nor participation in a criminal scheme can be equated with the actus reus of a conspiracy.

    • Knowledge and acts in furtherance of a criminal scheme do, however, provide evidence, particularly where they co-exist, from which the existence of an agreement may be inferred.

  • The "mutality of object" doctrine asks not whether there were the acts in pursuance of the agreement but whether there was a common agreement to which the acts are referable and to which all of the alleged offenders were privy.

  • The “mutuality of object” approach requires that each accused be privy to and agree to the larger scheme, although not necessarily to all of the details.

  • For example, the sale of legal products to purchasers whom the seller knows will use the products for some illict purchase does not in itself infer the existence of a common agreement. Rather, the seller must make the venture his own before he will be guilty as a conspirator or abettor.

R v Nguyen, 2016 ONCA 182 at paras 20-25, 30-31 [citations ommitted]

Party Liability to a Conspiracy 

  • Aiding a conspiracy to achieve its unlawful object does not make someone a party to the conspiracy. Party liability to conspiracy is established only if someone encouraged or assisted the initial formation of the agreement, or encouraged or assisted new members to join a pre-existing agreement: R v Nguyen, 2016 ONCA 182 at paras 19-20