Section 45 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 makes it is an offence to participate in the activities of an organised crime group, this is a new offence created by the 2015 legislation.
Why a new offence?
The offence was created to work alongside the offence of conspiracy. A conspiracy charge is aimed at the major players whereas this participation offence will be used to target those who “oil the wheels” of organised crime, those who deliberately ask no questions. The offence was created in such a way as to avoid people inadvertently being captured by it.
What is the offence?
Participation means taking part in the activities or helping a group to carry on criminal activities.
What are criminal activities?
Criminal activities are any listed below that are carried on with a view to obtaining any benefit or gain (which does not have to be financial)-
1. activity in England or Wales that constitutes an offence here punishable with imprisonment of 7 years or more; or
2. activity outside of England or Wales that constitutes an offence in the country that it takes place in and would also be an offence in England and Wales (provided it would carry a term of imprisonment of 7 years or more).
The definition of activities results in only the more serious types of criminal conduct being captured by the offence.
Does this mean I need to be getting paid?
The benefit or gain does not need to be financial, it could include being given preferential treatment or a situation where the motivation is sexual gratification, trading in abuse images for example.
What is an organised crime group?
An organised crime group is one that carries on criminal activities and consists of three or more persons acting together.
Do I need to know the gang members?
A person does not need to know the other people in the group, and only one act or omission is required to take place in England or Wales for it to be an offence.
It is sufficient if a person knew or reasonably suspected that he or she was engaging in such activities.
Is there a defence?
It is a defence if charged with this offence to prove participation was necessary to prevent or detect crime. This defence would apply for example to an undercover officer involved in an investigation into an organised group's activities.
What sentence could I get?
The offence is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
How we can assist