Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED December 19, 2003

For the purposes of the Criminal Law Act 1977 s.1(1) and s.1(2), in order to prove conspiracy to commit money laundering offences, it was for the court to establish the existence of an agreement to commit the crime, not to identify the particular offence. For that reason, an indictment that permitted the prosecution to allege a conspiracy to launder money from one or other or both of two possible sources was not duplicitous or uncertain.Appeal, on a single ground, against conviction for three charges of conspiracy to launder money. The appellant ('S') also sought permission to appeal against conviction on other grounds.S had been charged under the Criminal Law Act 1977 s.1(1) with conspiracy to convert, transfer and remove, from the jurisdiction, the proceeds of either drug trafficking, or other criminal conduct, or both. He had been convicted in absence following his disappearance on the eve of the trial. The sole ground on which S had been given permission to appeal against conviction was duplicity and uncertainty in the indictment, because it permitted the prosecution to allege a conspiracy to launder money from one or other of two possible sources. S conceded that the argument could no longer be maintained following the dicta in R v Hussain (Akhtar) [2002] EWCA Crim 6, [2002] 2 Cr. App. R. 26. He considered that there were other valid reasons to support an appeal against his conviction.S submitted that: (i) the wording of the indictment, namely "knowing or having reasonable grounds to suspect" that money was the proceeds of either drug trafficking or other criminal conduct or both was insufficient proof to satisfy an allegation of statutory conspiracy to commit either of those offences and the judge had failed to make that distinction to the jury; and (ii) a re-trial was appropriate on the ground that his absence from the trial had been involuntary because he had been abducted the day before it started and held prisoner for almost three months.HELD: (1) For the purposes of the Criminal Law Act 1977 s.1(2), the words complained of were an immaterial averment and irrelevant to the issue of whether or not a conspiracy was proven. The indictment had not sought to suggest that something short of knowledge was sufficient to satisfy s.1(2), since what had to be proven was an intention to launder illicitly obtained money, not the precise provenance of the money. The judge had properly directed the jury in his summing up. (2) S's explanation of his failure to attend the trial was not "capable of belief" for the purposes of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 s.23(1)(c) and s.23(2). There was no evidential burden on the Crown to disprove to a criminal standard his account of his abduction. The court had simply to consider whether the evidence cast doubt on the safety of the conviction and in the instant case it did not, R v Pendleton (2001) UKHL 66, [2002] 1 W.L.R. 72 applied. (3) An accused's deliberate absence from his trial gave the court a discretion to grant relief by way of an appeal pursuant to the Human Rights Act 1998 s.8(1). On the facts, the trial had not been unfair, R v Anthony William Jones (2002) UKHL 5, [2003] 1 A.C. 1 applied.

[2003] EWCA Crim 3712