Bhatti & Others

Citation [2015] EWCA Crim 1305

Date – 30th July 2015

Keywords – Conviction, Conspiracy, Bogus Colleges, Participation

Overview – Appeal against conviction of s25 offence dismissed. s25 creates one offence only and on the facts there was sufficient to say that there was an over-arching conspiracy between the organisers and all the beneficiaries. 

Summary – B, A and M were all convicted of a ‘global’ s25 conspiracy related to their involvement in a bogus college. The appeal was based on the dismissal of a half-time submission. The particulars in the indictment alleged that the conspiracy was “facilitating applications to enter or remain“, and the basis of the submission appears to be that there should be two separate conspiracies; one for facilitating an application to enter, and another to remain.

Further, that on the basis that what the evidence disclosed (if anything) was a series of individual conspiracies with each beneficiary and the college, whereas what was alleged was a wider one than that. 

The appeal was dismissed as the jury could draw the inference that the College was known to assist in making bogus applications (albeit that there were genuine applicants also), and that when the dishonest application was made, the beneficiaries were aware that they were part of a common unlawful purpose

Also, s25 contained only one offence – that of facilitation, which can be carried out in different ways, and so it was acceptable to have the single conspiracy.

Comment 

(1) One conspiracy or two? It is hard to see how there are not two separate offences here (if the allegation were substantives then it certainly should have been two counts). An analogy may be with a Brown direction – if there was an allegation that someone facilitated an unlawful entry or ‘remain’, then surely there would need to be unanimity?

In the end, although there was no prejudice, it would be sensible for it to be indicted in future as two separate conspiracies. It certainly won’t overload the indictment, is still easy to present, and the evidence is likely to be different (albeit with a common core), and it may present a future Court of Appeal taking a less benign view.  

(2) One conspiracy or many? This should be read with Mehtab decided a week before. It is unsurprising that the Court would do what it could to dispose of what appears to be a ‘technical’ argument. Although the argument that the beneficiaries were aware (or would care) rather than merely suspicious, about a wider conspiracy would appear to be an optimistic one.

Judges – LCJ, Simon & Patterson JJ

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