Both are distinct legal instruments, and their incorrect use may have adverse consequences for certain transactions.
Table of Contents
Lawful conspiracy refers to an agreement between two or more parties to commit a lawful act with the predominant purpose of injuring or damaging another party, and the act is then carried out and the purpose achieved.
The elements of lawful conspiracy
- There was a combination or agreement between two or more persons
- The sole or dominant purpose of the combination or agreement was to injure the plaintiff
- The combination or agreement was carried into effect by the defendants’ conduct
- The defendants’ conduct in carrying the combination or agreement into effect caused damage to the plaintiff
Unlawful conspiracy refers to an agreement between two or more parties to commit an unlawful act with the intention to injure the plaintiff, and the act is then carried out and the intention achieved.
The elements of unlawful conspiracy
- There was a combination or agreement between two or more persons to engage in conduct amounting to unlawful means
- A purpose of that combination or agreement was to injure the plaintiff
- The combination or agreement was carried into effect by the commission of the agreed unlawful acts
- Those unlawful acts caused damage to the plaintiff
Differences between lawful and unlawful Conspiracy
What the two torts have in common is that they both require proof of the conspiracy. The plaintiff must show that the defendants had an intention to injure, that this intention was carried into effect, and that damage was caused to the plaintiff.
It is generally accepted as unlikely that the plaintiff will be able to make particularised allegations regarding the actual agreement between the defendants that amounted to the conspiracy. The plaintiff will therefore generally only be required to show the overt acts relied on to justify an allegation of conspiratorial agreement.
1. Prominence of the required purpose
- Both torts require the plaintiff to prove that the purpose of the conspiracy was to injure the plaintiff. For lawful conspiracy, the plaintiff must prove the purpose of injuring was the sole or predominant purpose, while unlawful conspiracy only requires the plaintiff prove there was a purpose (whether it was predominant or not).
2. Nature of the means used to injure the plaintiff
For unlawful conspiracy, the plaintiff must prove the agreement between the parties was to engage in conduct that amounted to unlawful means.
3. Nature of means used to carry the conspiracy into effect and cause injury to the plaintiff
For an unlawful means of conspiracy, the plaintiff must prove that the conspiracy was carried into effect by commission of the agreed unlawful acts, and those agreed unlawful acts caused damage to the plaintiff. This is not required for lawful conspiracy.
Conspiracy defence or prosecution
Whether you need to prosecute a conspiracy in the civil courts, or you want to defend a conspiracy claim, Gibbs Wright Litigation Lawyers are experienced, dedicated and love to win. Call us today for a free, no obligation consultation about how we might be able to assist in your particular circumstances.
The content of this publication is intended as general commentary only and may not be suitable or applicable to your personal circumstances. It is not intended to replace independent legal advice. You can contact us at our Brisbane Office for a free consultation on a range of litigation matters on (07) 3088 6364.
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