Lane and Another, Regina v: SC 11 Jul 2018

The defendants were to be tried for allegedly sending funds abroad to support terrorism. The court now considered the meaning of the phrase ‘reasonable cause to suspect’ in the context of the anticipated use of the funds: ‘Does it mean that the accused must actually suspect, and for reasonable cause, that the money may be used for the purposes of terrorism? Or is it sufficient that on the information known to him there exists, assessed objectively, reasonable cause to suspect that that may be the use to which it is put?’
Held: The defendants’ appeal failed. Parliament had deliberately chosen to widen the scope of the offence on its re-enactment: ‘to include those who had, objectively assessed, reasonable cause to suspect that the money might be put to terrorist use, as well as those who intended that it should be, or knew that it would be. In particular, the change in the definition of the offence which is now section 17 of the Terrorism Act 2000, and here under question, is a change from ‘knows or suspects’ to ‘knows or has reasonable cause to suspect’. That change can only have been intended to remove the requirement for proof of actual suspicion. It is not open to the court to ignore this kind of clear Parliamentary decision.’
However: ‘it would be an error to suppose that the form of offence-creating words adopted by Parliament result in an offence of strict liability. It is certainly true that because objectively-assessed reasonable cause for suspicion is sufficient, an accused can commit this offence without knowledge or actual suspicion that the money might be used for terrorist purposes. But the accused’s state of mind is not, as it is in offences which are truly of strict liability, irrelevant. The requirement that there exist objectively assessed cause for suspicion focuses attention on what information the accused had. As the Crown agreed before this court, that requirement is satisfied when, on the information available to the accused, a reasonable person would (not might or could) suspect that the money might be used for terrorism. The state of mind of such a person is, whilst clearly less culpable than that of a person who knows that the money may be used for that purpose, not accurately described as in no way blameworthy. It was for Parliament to decide whether the gravity of the threat of terrorism justified attaching criminal responsibility to such a person, but it was clearly entitled to conclude that it did. It is normal, not unusual, for a single offence to be committed by persons exhibiting different levels of culpability. The difference in culpability can, absent other aggravating features of the case, be expected to be reflected in any sentence imposed if conviction results.’


Baroness Hale of Richmond PSC, Lord Burnett LCJ, Lord Hughes, Lord Hodge JJSC, Lord Mance


[2018] UKSC 36, [2018] Lloyd’s Rep FC 438, [2018] 1 WLR 3647, [2018] 2 Cr App R 35, [2018] WLR(D) 442, UKSC 2017/0080, SC 180419am Video


Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC, SC Summary, SC Video Summary


Terrorism Act 2000 17


England and Wales


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Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 03 August 2022; Ref: scu.619946