Director of Public Prosecutions v Doot: HL 1973

The defendants were charged with conspiracy to import dangerous drugs into the United Kingdom. Their counsel submitted that they could not be tried in England since the conspiracy had been formed abroad.
Held: There could be no breach of any rules of international law if the defendants were prosecuted in this country as under the territorial principle the courts of this country have a clear right, if not a duty, to prosecute in accordance with municipal law: ‘The position as it is under international law is not, however, determinative of the question whether, under our municipal law, the acts committed amount to a crime. That has to be decided on different principles. If conspiracy to import drugs were a statutory offence, the question whether foreign conspiracies were included would be decided upon the terms of the statute. Since it is (if at all) a common law offence, this question must be decided upon principle and authority.’ and ‘In the search for a principle, the requirement of territoriality does not, in itself, provide an answer. To many simple situations, where all relevant elements occur in this country, or conversely, occur abroad, it may do so. But there are many ‘crimes’ (I use the word without prejudice at this stage) the elements of which cannot be so simply located. They may originate in one country, be continued in another, produce effects in a third. Some constituent fact, the posting or receipt of a letter, the firing of a shot, the falsification of a document, may take place in one country, the other necessary elements in another.’
Viscount Dilhorne cited Aspinall and said: ‘I see no reason to criticise this passage unless it be interpreted to mean that the crime, though completed by the agreement, ends when the agreement is made. When there is agreement between two or more to commit an unlawful act all the ingredients of the offence are there and in that sense the crime is complete. But a conspiracy does not end with the making of the agreement. It will continue so long as there are two or more parties to it intending to carry out the design.
. . If it is, as in my opinion it is, a continuing offence then the courts of England, in my view, have jurisdiction to try the offence if, and only if, the evidence suffices to show that the conspiracy whenever or wherever it was formed was in existence when the accused were in England. Here the acts of the respondents in England, to which I have referred, suffice to show that they were acting in concert in pursuance of an existing agreement to import cannabis, to show that there was then within the jurisdiction a conspiracy to import cannabis resin to which they were parties.
. . Why, one may ask, if the offence of conspiracy is completed when the agreement to do the unlawful act is made, should the conspiracy made abroad or on the high seas be triable at common law in any place where an overt act takes place? This, in my view, can only be on the basis that the overt act, coupled, it may be, with evidence of overt acts in other parts of England, shows that there was at the time of the overt act a conspiracy in England, no matter when or where it was formed.’
References: [1973] 1 All ER 940, [1973] AC 807
Judges: Lord Wilberforce, Viscount Dilhorne
Jurisdiction: England and Wales
This case is cited by:

  • Cited – Smith (Wallace Duncan), Regina v (No 4) CACD 17-Mar-2004
    The defendant appealed convictions for fraudulent trading and obtaining property by deception, saying that the English court could not prosecute an offence committed principally in the US.
    Held: Provided some substantial element (here the . .
    (, [2004] EWCA Crim 631, Times 29-Mar-04, [2004] QB 1418, [2004] 2 Cr App R 17, [2004] 3 WLR 229)
  • Cited – Her Majesty’s Advocate v Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah HCJ 8-Dec-1999
    The court considered whether the criminal complaint that the defendants had been part of a conspiracy to set a bomb aboard an airliner which exploded over Scotland, was justiciable in Scotland. Lord Sutherland: ‘Where however, a crime of the utmost . .
    (, , [1999] ScotHC 248)
  • Cited – Office of the King’s Prosecutor, Brussels v Cando Armas and others HL 17-Nov-2005
    The defendant resisted extradition to Brussels saying that the offence had been committed in part in England. He had absconded and been convicted. Application was made for his return to serve his sentence. The offences associated with organisation . .
    ([2006] 1 All ER 647, , [2005] 3 WLR 1079, Times 18-Nov-05, , [2005] UKHL 67, [2006] 2 AC 1)
  • Cited – Phillips v Mulcaire SC 24-May-2012
    The claimant worked as personal assistant to a well known public relations company. She alleged that the defendant had intercepted telephone message given by and left for her. The court was asked first as to whether the information amounted to . .
    (, [2012] UKSC 28, , , UKSC 2012/0038, , [2012] 3 WLR 312, [2012] WLR(D) 193, [2012] 4 All ER 207, [2012] 5 Costs LO 609, [2013] 1 AC 1, [2012] EMLR 31)

These lists may be incomplete.
Last Update: 27 November 2020; Ref: scu.188832