R v Shillam [2013] EWCA Crim 160

Conspiracy – Knowledge of Co-Conspirators – Separate Conspiracy


Shillam bought cocaine from R, in order to sell.  He had been observed by police surveillance units meeting with R and was arrested driving a van and carrying over six grams of cocaine which he had bought from R.  When police raided R’s home, they found a hydraulic press and cutting agents along with two other dealers.  The prosecution case was that whilst R was the central figure, there was a single grand conspiracy between all of the defendants in producing and distributing the cocaine.  This was despite Shillam never having contacted or had any of the other defendant’s phone numbers other than the central figure R.  The defendant was charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine and was convicted.  He appealed.


Whether the defendant could be involved in a single conspiracy with the other co-conspirators if he did not know of their existence? Whether there was a single conspiracy or a number of conspiracies between two or more people all of which involved the central figure R.


Shillam’s appeal was allowed.  There was no single grand conspiracy between the conspirators to supply cocaine amongst and between the networks of dealers of which Shillam was only one.  Instead, each was guilty of a separate conspiracy with R to supply cocaine within their own network. Shillam did not even know of the other dealers’ existence and could not be aware of their existence within the conspiracy.  As such, his conspiracy to supply cocaine was merely with R.  This principle had been set down in R v Griffiths [1966] 1 QB 589 and could properly be applied here.   A conviction for single conspiracy between all the defendants was unsafe.