Dalhousie Law Journal


Terence Arnold


Criminal conspiracy, inchoate crime, conspiracy trial, intricacies, actus reus


Criminal Conspiracy in Canada "is primarily intended to provide the practitioner of criminal law in Canada with a guide through the maze of law surrounding the inchoate crime called criminal conspiracy"(p.iii). This intention has been realized. Professor Goode has presented a thorough, clear and well-documented account of the intricacies of his subject as they are likely to affect a conspiracy trial. And intricate the subject is, because the nature of the offence is difficult to define, and because the evidentiary and procedural problems which attend the conspiracy trial are easily susceptible to misunderstanding and confusion. Following a brief overview of the history of the conspiracy offence, Professor Goode begins his examination of the physical and mental elements of the crime. He quickly identifies a central conceptual problem in asserting that "the question of evidentiary matters constantly intrudes in any discussion of the actus reus, particularly in the courts, and is largely responsible for the dearth of definition of the actus reus" (p. 9). The problem, in other words, is confusion between the evidentiary basis upon which a conspiracy can be said to exist and the nature of the conspiratorial agreement itself. The result is the absence of a basic definition of the actus reus of conspiracy. The meanings of "agreement", and frequently proffered synonyms for agreement (such as "common design") are assumed by the courts. When is the relationship between persons such that it can be said that there is agreement between them? In answering this question, the courts have tended to rely upon assertions in the negative about the circumstances in which an agreement may be inferred. Conspirators need not know the identity of one another, and they need not have met, or consulted with or spoken to those with whom they conspire.' These assertions do not resolve the problem of definition.

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