Secondary participation in conspiracy

For a compellingly logical analysis of secondary participation in conspiracy, see R v JF, 2013 SCC 12 (1 March 2013).

Although the form of secondary liability considered in JF is aiding or abetting under s 21 of the Criminal Code, the same reasoning would apply to the other forms of participation that are usually included as constituting secondary participation: inciting, counselling or procuring.

The focus is on the actus reus of conspiracy, which is an agreement to commit an offence. The actus reus for secondary liability is aiding, abetting, inciting, counselling or procuring the formation of the agreement. Because the agreement may continue up to the attainment of its unlawful object, a person may join the agreement after its initial formation. A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures that person to join at that later stage commits the actus reus of secondary participation in the conspiracy.

A person who aids (etc) a conspirator in the attaining of the object of the conspiracy is not for that fact alone a conspirator, because the attaining of the object of the conspiracy is not the actus reus of conspiracy. But that evidence will usually support an inference of assistance in the entering into of the agreement by the person who is aided (etc), and if that inference is permissible in the circumstances then it is evidence of the actus reus of the aider’s (etc) secondary participation.

This decision removes doubts that had existed in Canada over whether liability could arise from the mere assistance of a conspirator in the furtherance of the conspiracy. The approach in R v McNamara (No 1) (1981) 56 CCC(2d) 193 (Ontario CA) was not followed.

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