Serious Fraud Office V Evans & Others

R v Evans and Others [2014] EW Misc 5 (Crown C), [2014] 1 WLR 2817)

18th February 2014

Crown Court


This prosecution was brought against three solicitors, a Queens Counsel who advised, and two mining executives following the transfer of freehold mining interests and the consequential effect on restoration obligations. Philip Hackett QC represented the senior partner of the firm of solicitors.  Hickinbottom J. dismissed the allegation in a judgment  that defines the proper limits of the much overused indictment  alleging conspiracy to defraud. The judge concluded his consideration of the history and use of this offence:

  • “First, despite comments of the Law Commission and learned texts that the common law offence of criminal conspiracy is conceptually wide enough to include any dishonest agreement, the common law has in practice, in its usual way, placed boundaries on the offence.  When such a conspiracy is charged, dishonesty is the usual focus; because the other elements are not in issue, and the question of dishonesty is determinative.  However, dishonesty per se is not a crime; nor is a dishonest agreement.  I have identified the limits of the offence of conspiracy to defraud relevant to this case in this ruling.  Rimmington (and cases that follow it, such as Norris) make clear that those boundaries should be respected, and why.  Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights merely underscores the essential importance of those principles.  Any prosecution for such conspiracies must be based upon a proper analysis of the way in which the offence was committed, which must be laid out clearly in the particulars of charge.  That is not a new requirement: the Attorney General’s Guidance effectively requires such an approach, and cases such as K and Goldshield Group expressly do so.  It is a vital requirement.  Amongst other things, it prevents the Crown from changing its core case against the Defendants, within the wide parameters of this offence; and ensures that the Defendants have a proper opportunity to respond to the charge.  It also prevents the resources of the court – increasingly rare and precious – from being expended on a case put forward on a basis not ultimately pursued.  Before being brought to this court, such cases need focused and rigorous analysis.”       

Hickinbottom J.


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