This case concerns the question of whether an accused can be convicted as a party to a conspiracy to commit murder. At issue is whether a conviction based on aiding or abetting a conspiracy to commit murder is too far removed from the substantive offence of murder to attract the same penal consequences, which includes life imprisonment. The criminalization of conduct ever more remote to substantive offences has clear implications for civil liberties, and has become increasingly prevalent in the criminal law.
The BCCLA is an intervener and argues that that aiding or abetting conspiracy to murder is not an offence known to the law of Canada, Parliament never intended for the offence to exist. The double inchoate offence proposed captures conduct that is too remote, both mentally and physically, from the principal offence. The criminal law’s net already captures those who are part of a criminal agreement, those who attempt to commit the offence that is the subject of the agreement, and those who assist in the commission of that offence.
The Supreme Court of Canada held that, as a matter of law, a person can be found liable as a party to the offence of conspiracy. However, party liability should be limited to cases where the accused encourages or assists in the initial formation of the agreement, or when the accused encourages or assists new members to join a pre-existing agreement. While aiding or abetting the furtherance of an unlawful object cannot ground party liability for conspiracy, this may provide powerful circumstantial evidence from which membership in the conspiracy can be inferred.
The BCCLA is represented by Ryan Dalziel of Bull, Housser & Tupper LLP.
Supreme Court of Canada