A person can be convicted of conspiracy to murder even where no killing actually takes place. The offence is the plan. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment, but sentences of years in single figures may be applicable in situations where in the end nobody was killed and not much was done to carry out the plan to kill.
It is possible to commit the offence even if the proposed victim of the conspiracy cannot be killed, for example where there is an agreement to kill someone who is already dead.
Our specialist conspiracy to murder solicitors' case studies
Any conspiracy to murder solicitor might claim to be an expert. Mary Monson defended her first murder case in 1982, and we have acted in dozens of high profile murder cases since then. We have included summaries of two of those cases below.
1990 Gangland killing
Our client was accused of the gangland murder of ‘White Tony' Johnson, an alleged major player in the Manchester underworld. This was the murder which signalled the dawn of Manchester's dark ‘Gunchester' era. Mary Monson herself faced threats and outside pressure from serious criminals to make her client plead guilty.
Verdict after trial: Not guilty
2016 - Murder and Robbery
Our client was facing an allegation of the murder of Charlie Singh, who was killed outside a food retailer and a large amount of cash was stolen. The police gave insufficient disclosure before the interview, but our conspiracy to murder solicitor had managed to obtain details of the allegation which the police did not reveal.
Outcome: Client not charged
Conspiracy to murder - the best solicitors' approach?
When the prosecution have an overactive imagination
In a case where a plan to kill is alleged, the prosecution will usually try to get the jury to believe that the fact that there was contact between defendants around the time of the death means that they must have been acting together and according to a plan. The prosecution will often attempt to create meaning from contact between different people even where there is no meaning or significance to it. They will present the jury with an incomplete picture and ask them to join the dots to decide that there must have been a plan. But using the fact that someone has been in contact or seen another person, or been in an area where somebody's phone was near another's phone, is not the same as proving a real plan to do anything. The prosecution should be challenged when they try to create a case only out of coincidence, and the conspiracy to murder solicitor and the client are the ones who should prevent them doing this. If there are alternative explanations for contact which looks suspicious at first, they need to be prepared in advance and properly presented at the trial. At the same time, if the prosecution are fantasising, as they have been known to do, about the reasons for different contact between defendants, the defence should be merciless in exposing this fantasising in front of the jury.
Understanding the relationships between defendants, witnesses and the victim
In a situation where the prosecution are using limited amounts of either technical or circumstantial evidence linking defendants and their movements and trying to use it to prove an agreement to kill, the more the defence team understand about the different people in the case the better. If the defence team spends time with the client understanding the relationships between defendants, contact between defendants or with the victim which is innocent can be explained in context. The solicitor, barristers and the client must have spent time a good understanding the ins and outs of each key relationship that if something needs to be explained to the jury during the trial, this can be done in a way that appears natural and persuasive. These types of situation arise in every case, whether it is explaining the frequency of communication with a friend or relative in the context of the history of that relationship, or simply why somebody might have visited a certain area, shop, pub or park at a given time, and why this would not be anything out of the ordinary.
Forensic evidence appearing to show contact or meeting
Police and the CPS often use technical evidence, sometimes called forensic evidence, to show contact or meeting between defendants or between the defendants and the victim. The big developments in this area in recent years have been the use of the UK's mobile telephone network and national ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) network. The mobile network can give approximate details of location of a mobile handset at certain times, but this is far from an precise science, and does not give GPS style accuracy. The prosecution will in most cases overstate the interpretation of this type of evidence. The client in a conspiracy to murder case should expect his or her lawyers to be very wary of accepting this so-called ‘cell site' evidence, and should commission their own report. In cases in which Mary Monson Solicitors are defending a client, the aim in every case is to have a cell site expert who can show greater knowledge and authority on the subject than than the prosecution expert, so that the jury feel more comfortable trusting the defence interpretation of the evidence.
The prosecution will also use call traffic, or the frequency and timing of calls between different phone numbers to show that these people must have been involved and had knowledge of a conspiracy. This can be quite a leap of the imagination. The reality is that there can be any number of explanations for phone communication, depending on the relationships and circumstances. It is for the prosecution to prove that this is criminal communication, and where there is another explanation, the jury should, in the absence of corroborating evidence, be reminded that the prosecution has to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. Guess work by the prosecution is not the same as evidence,
ANPR evidence can give data which proves that a car with a certain registration passed certain points on the motorway and major road network. It does not give any more detail than that, however, and the possibility for ‘misreads' or the car passing an ANPR camera without being detected cannot be ignored. ANPR data on its own cannot prove presence in a certain place, but can show that a car was in the vicinity at a certain time. This does not mean that a defendant had contact with whoever it is that the prosecution say he or she did, it is merely circumstantial evidence, and will usually need other evidence to support a particular theory.
What was the actual plan?
Even if the evidence points towards some kind of coordination between the defendants before the killing was carried out, this is not enough on its own to prove that there was a plan to kill. To be guilty of conspiracy to murder, the defendant must be aware and agree to be part of the carrying out of a killing. So if a group of people agree to attack someone else, unless the agreement was specifically to kill him, they all cannot be guilty of conspiracy to murder. Association, even if it is a fairly guilty sort of association, is not the same legally as conspiracy to murder.
If you or a family member are worried about an investigation or prosecution for murder or manslaughter, please call us and speak to one of our specialist conspiracy to murder solicitors throughout the UK. We are always happy to talk.