R v Siracusa – Case Summary

R v Siracusa

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1989] 90 Cr App R 340.


The defendants were part of a drug smuggling organisation. They moved heroin from Thailand and cannabis from Kashmir into Canada inside furniture. One of their smuggled packages was shipped via England. It was subsequently discovered by authorities in Canada.

The defendants were convicted two counts of conspiracy to contravene s.170(2)(b) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979, pursuant to s.1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977. One count was in respect of the cannabis, the other was for the heroin.

The defendants appealed their conviction. They argued that the prosecution failed to prove that each defendant knew what drug each smuggling operation involved. Specifically, they argued there was insufficient proof they knew the Thai package was heroin and the Kashmir package had cannabis.

  1. What must be proven to convict a defendant of conspiracy to import drugs where multiple drugs are involved?

The Court of Appeal dismissed the convictions. S.1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 expressly provides for conspiracies to commit multiple offences. The prosecution cannot establish conspiracy to import one drug if the defendant thought that they would be importing a completely different drug. However, in this case the trial judge had made clear to the jury that they could not take any agreement to import cannabis as proof of conspiracy to import heroin, and vice versa. The jury therefore obviously considered that there was enough proof of both conspiracies.

This Case is Authority For…

A defendant can only be guilty of conspiracy in relation to a crime which matches the intended outcome of the conspiracy. For example, while an intention to inflict GBH suffices for the offence of murder, it would not be enough to prove conspiracy to commit murder.


O’Connor LJ in this case disapproved of earlier judicial dicta indicating that a defendant must intend to play an active role in the conspiracy. He thought a defendant could be guilty even if he merely intended to be passive. For example, a mob boss who recruits other people to carry out the crime without intending to be involved may be guilty of conspiracy.