Define: Writ Of Conspiracy

Writ Of Conspiracy
Writ Of Conspiracy
Quick Summary of Writ Of Conspiracy

In the past, a writ of conspiracy was a legal document that allowed individuals to bring a case against someone who conspired to harm them. This harm typically involves falsely accusing the individual of a serious crime, such as treason or felony. By utilising the writ of conspiracy, the plaintiff sought justice for the false accusations made against them. For instance, if two individuals conspired to falsely accuse someone of theft, the victim could use the writ of conspiracy to sue the conspirators for damages. This writ served as a means to hold individuals accountable for their actions and prevent them from causing harm to others through deceitful means. However, it’s important to note that under common law, the writ of conspiracy was only applicable in cases where the plaintiff was falsely accused of a serious crime. In all other conspiracy cases, the plaintiff had to file a separate action.

What is the dictionary definition of Writ Of Conspiracy?
Dictionary Definition of Writ Of Conspiracy

In the past, a writ of conspiracy was a legal document that allowed individuals to bring a case against someone who had planned to harm them. This was typically done by falsely accusing the victim of a serious crime. The purpose of this document was to seek justice for the harm caused by the conspiracy and to hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions. In simpler terms, it provided a means to hold someone responsible for plotting to harm another person.

Full Definition Of Writ Of Conspiracy

The writ of conspiracy is a legal mechanism with historical roots in English common law, designed to address and remedy wrongful acts committed through collusion. Over time, the writ has evolved, encompassing various forms of conspiratorial behaviour that impact both civil and criminal law. This comprehensive overview explores the writ of conspiracy, its historical origins, legal framework, modern applications, and significant case law, providing a detailed understanding of its role and relevance in contemporary British jurisprudence.

Historical Origins of the Writ of Conspiracy

The concept of conspiracy dates back to medieval England, where it was initially addressed through the writ of conspiracy, a legal tool used to tackle collusive behaviour that caused harm to individuals or the Crown. The writ was primarily a civil remedy, aimed at providing redress for those wrongfully accused of crimes or wrongs through the collusion of others.

In its earliest form, the writ of conspiracy was used to combat malicious prosecutions. It required proof that two or more individuals had conspired together to initiate false charges or legal actions against a person, resulting in harm or damages. The evolution of this writ laid the foundation for modern conspiracy laws, expanding its scope and application.

Legal Framework of the Writ of Conspiracy

Elements of Conspiracy

To establish a case of conspiracy under English law, several key elements must be proven:

  1. Agreement: There must be an agreement between two or more parties to commit an unlawful act or a lawful act by unlawful means.
  2. Intent: The parties involved must have intended to achieve the objective of the conspiracy.
  3. Overt Act: At least one overt act must be committed in furtherance of the conspiracy, although the act itself need not be illegal if the objective is unlawful.

These elements form the basis of both civil and criminal conspiracy cases, with variations in their application depending on the context.

Civil Conspiracy

Civil conspiracy, also known as tortious conspiracy, is a common law tort that allows individuals to seek damages for harm caused by the conspiratorial actions of others. There are two primary types of civil conspiracy:

  1. Conspiracy to Injure: This occurs when the conspirators’ primary objective is to cause harm to the claimant. The claimant must prove that the conspirators had the intention to harm and that harm resulted from their actions.
  2. Conspiracy to Use Unlawful Means: In this type, the claimant must demonstrate that the conspirators used unlawful means (such as fraud or intimidation) to achieve their objective, even if their primary aim was not to cause harm.

Civil conspiracy claims often arise in commercial disputes, where parties allege that competitors or business partners have colluded to engage in anti-competitive behaviour or other wrongful acts.

Criminal Conspiracy

Criminal conspiracy is an offence under the Criminal Law Act 1977, which codified the common law principles of conspiracy in England and Wales. Under Section 1 of the Act, a person is guilty of conspiracy if they agree with one or more others to pursue a course of conduct that would necessarily amount to or involve the commission of a crime.

Key aspects of criminal conspiracy include:

  1. Actus Reus (Guilty Act): The actus reus of conspiracy is the agreement itself. Unlike civil conspiracy, no overt act is required for the offence to be complete.
  2. Mens Rea (Guilty Mind): The mens rea involves the intention to commit the substantive offence. The conspirators must intend to carry out the plan, knowing that it involves criminal conduct.

Criminal conspiracy is a versatile charge used to address a wide range of illegal activities, from drug trafficking and terrorism to fraud and corruption.

Modern Applications of the Writ of Conspiracy

Business and Commercial Disputes

In the commercial context, conspiracy claims often arise when parties allege collusion to undermine business interests. Examples include:

  • Price Fixing and Market Manipulation: Competitors conspire to fix prices or manipulate markets to their advantage.
  • Breach of Contract: Parties conspiring to breach contractual obligations or interfere with business relationships.
  • Intellectual Property Theft: Conspiracy to steal or misuse intellectual property, such as patents or trade secrets.

Employment and Labour Relations

Employment disputes can also involve conspiracy claims, particularly in cases of:

  • Trade Union Activities: Allegations of conspiracy by employers to undermine trade union activities or by unions to coerce employers.
  • Employee Poaching: Conspiracy to lure employees away from competitors through unlawful means.

Public Interest and Governmental Cases

Conspiracy charges are frequently used in high-profile cases involving public interest and governmental issues, such as:

  • Corruption and Bribery: Public officials and private individuals conspiring to engage in corrupt practices.
  • National Security: Conspiracies related to terrorism, espionage, or other threats to national security.

Significant Case Law

Mulcahy v. The Queen (1868)

One of the seminal cases in the history of conspiracy law is Mulcahy v. The Queen (1868), where the House of Lords held that a conspiracy requires an agreement between two or more persons to achieve an unlawful objective. The case emphasized the necessity of an agreement, setting a precedent for future conspiracy cases.

R v. Anderson (1986)

In R v. Anderson (1986), the House of Lords clarified the mens rea requirement for criminal conspiracy. The court held that a person could be convicted of conspiracy even if they did not intend to play an active role in the execution of the criminal plan, as long as they agreed to the overall objective.

Total Network SL v. Revenue and Customs Commissioners (2008)

This case involved a civil conspiracy claim where the claimant alleged that the defendants conspired to defraud the UK tax authorities through a carousel fraud scheme. The House of Lords ruled in favour of the claimant, highlighting the application of civil conspiracy in complex commercial fraud cases.

JSC BTA Bank v. Ablyazov (2012)

In JSC BTA Bank v. Ablyazov (2012), the High Court addressed a conspiracy to use unlawful means, involving allegations of a massive fraud scheme orchestrated by the bank’s former chairman. The case underscored the importance of demonstrating unlawful means and the intent to cause harm in civil conspiracy claims.

Challenges and Criticisms

Proof and Evidence

One of the primary challenges in conspiracy cases is the difficulty of proving the existence of an agreement. Conspiracies often involve covert and secretive actions, making it challenging to gather direct evidence. Courts frequently rely on circumstantial evidence, which can be contentious and open to interpretation.

Overlap with Other Offences

Conspiracy charges can overlap with other criminal and civil offences, such as fraud, theft, and breach of contract. This overlap can lead to complexities in legal proceedings, with defendants potentially facing multiple charges for the same underlying conduct.

Potential for Abuse

Critics argue that conspiracy charges can be used abusively by plaintiffs or prosecutors to target individuals without sufficient evidence of their direct involvement in the alleged wrongdoing. This potential for abuse underscores the need for careful judicial scrutiny and adherence to legal standards in conspiracy cases.

The Future of the Writ of Conspiracy

The writ of conspiracy remains a vital tool in both civil and criminal law, addressing collusive behaviour that harms individuals, businesses, and society. As legal systems evolve, the application of conspiracy laws will continue to adapt to new challenges, such as cybercrime and international conspiracies.

Cybercrime and Digital Conspiracies

The rise of digital technology and the internet has introduced new forms of conspiratorial behaviour, including:

  • Hacking and Data Breaches: Conspiracies to hack into computer systems and steal sensitive information.
  • Online Fraud: Collaborative schemes to defraud individuals or businesses through online platforms.
  • Cyberterrorism: Conspiracies to disrupt critical infrastructure or cause harm through digital means.

International Conspiracies

Globalization has led to an increase in cross-border conspiracies, necessitating international cooperation and legal frameworks to address:

  • Transnational Organized Crime: Conspiracies involving drug trafficking, human trafficking, and other forms of organized crime.
  • International Corruption: Collaborative efforts to engage in corrupt practices across national borders.


The writ of conspiracy, with its deep historical roots and evolving legal framework, continues to play a crucial role in addressing wrongful acts committed through collusion. Its application spans civil and criminal law, encompassing a wide range of contexts from commercial disputes to national security issues. Despite the challenges in proving conspiracy and the potential for abuse, the writ remains an essential tool in modern British jurisprudence, adapting to new forms of conspiratorial behaviour in an increasingly interconnected world.

As legal practitioners, scholars, and policymakers navigate the complexities of conspiracy law, the principles established through centuries of jurisprudence provide a foundation for ensuring justice and accountability in cases of collusion and conspiracy.

Writ Of Conspiracy FAQ'S

A Writ of Conspiracy is a legal document issued by a court that allows law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute individuals involved in a conspiracy to commit a crime.

While an arrest warrant is issued for a specific individual suspected of committing a crime, a Writ of Conspiracy is issued for individuals involved in a conspiracy to commit a crime. It allows law enforcement to target multiple individuals who may be working together to commit illegal activities.

To obtain a Writ of Conspiracy, law enforcement agencies must provide sufficient evidence to the court that demonstrates the existence of a conspiracy and the involvement of specific individuals. This evidence may include witness statements, surveillance footage, or intercepted communications.

Yes, a Writ of Conspiracy can be issued for any crime that involves multiple individuals working together to commit illegal activities. This can range from drug trafficking and organized crime to white-collar offenses such as fraud or embezzlement.

Yes, individuals targeted by a Writ of Conspiracy have the right to challenge its validity in court. They can argue that there is insufficient evidence to support the existence of a conspiracy or that their involvement was minimal or unintentional.

The penalties for individuals convicted under a Writ of Conspiracy vary depending on the specific crime involved. They can range from fines and probation to lengthy prison sentences, especially if the underlying crime carries severe penalties.

Yes, a Writ of Conspiracy can be issued against individuals who may not have directly participated in the criminal activity but were aware of the conspiracy and provided assistance or support to the main perpetrators.

Yes, a Writ of Conspiracy can be issued against corporations or organisations if there is evidence to suggest their involvement in a criminal conspiracy. This can include cases of corporate fraud, money laundering, or other illegal activities conducted by the organisation’s members.

Yes, a Writ of Conspiracy can be issued based on circumstantial evidence if it is strong enough to establish a reasonable inference of a conspiracy. However, the court will carefully evaluate the evidence to ensure it meets the required legal standards.

Yes, a Writ of Conspiracy can be issued without the knowledge of the targeted individuals. This allows law enforcement agencies to conduct covert investigations and gather evidence without alerting the suspects.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th June 2024.

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