• In the case of R v Siracusa [1990] 90 Cr App R 340; [1989] Crim LR 712, it was deemed possible to make an indictment only on a basis of conspiracy to commit one of two (multiple) alternative drug trafficking offences

Facts of the Case

  • Ds were drug smugglers part of an international drug trafficking organisation
  • The main method of drug smuggling they used was hiding the substances in locally made furniture
  • Ds smuggled the illegal drugs to Canada via the UK (Ds obtained heroin from Thailand and cannabis from Kashmir)
  • A package containing drugs worth £3 million was caught on the English border in Southampton
  • Ds’ dual conviction on each count of bringing in heroin and cannabis was based upon conspiring to import banned narcotic substances
  • s.1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 provided that if the facts suggested the importation of drugs from multiple classes, conducts had to result in the commission of more than one offence
  • D’s conviction fell under s.1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 with a conspiracy breach of s.170(2) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979
  • s.170(2) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 provided that there need not be exact knowledge on the precise item being taken into the country

Issues in R v Siracusa [1990] 90 Cr App R 340; [1989] Crim LR 712

  • Ds appealed on the basis that the judge had falsely made directions to drug trafficking conspiracies
  • As a standpoint in their appeal, Ds also argued that proof must have been presented on importing heroin and that an agreement to import cannabis would have been insufficient
  • Ds argued that the judge failed to direct the prosecution to prove that the defendants knew that each of the two locations (Kashmir and Thailand) would source them with the necessary drugs 

Held by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)

  • Appeal dismissed – held that a conspiracy could amount to an agreement (which was the essence of the s.107 offence)
  • The judge directed the jury to consider that agreeing to import heroin could not be proved by a covenant for cannabis import
  • The four Ds were sentenced to between 22 and 25 years’ imprisonment (Siracusa, Monteleone and Di Carlo to a total of 25 years’ imprisonment and the last D – Luciani – to 22 years)
  • All four appeals against conviction were dismissed on 25 April 1989, but Siracusa, Monteleone and Luciani’s appeals against sentence were allowed (unlike that of Di Carlo)

Lord Justice O’Connor

O’Connor LJ was sceptical on previous judicial dicta that D should be an active actor in the conspiracy and stood on the opination that Ds could be passive

  • O’Connor LJ made reference to the organisers behind drug trafficking
  • “The present case is a classic example of such a conspiracy. It is the hallmark of such crimes that the organisers try to remain in the background and more often than not are not apprehended.” [p.349]
  • According to O’Connor LJ, the mere participation in such criminal activity would be enough to constitute an agreement
  • “Consent, that is the agreement or adherence to the agreement, can be inferred if it is proved that he knew what was going on and the intention to participate in the furtherance of the criminal purpose is also established by his failure to stop the unlawful activity.” [p.349]