‘Reasonable Cause to Suspect’: In the Absence of Knowledge and Actual Suspicion: R v Lane and Letts (AB and CD) [2018] UKSC 36; [2018] 1 WLR 3647

Published date01 December 2018
Date01 December 2018
AuthorMark Thomas
Subject MatterCase Notes
Case Note
‘Reasonable Cause
to Suspect’: In the Absence
of Knowledge and Actual
R v Lane and Letts (AB and CD) [2018] UKSC 36; [2018] 1 WLR 3647
Section 17 of the Terrorism Act 2000, provides that:
A person commits an offence if—
(a) he enters into or becomes concerned in an arrangement as a result of which money or other property is
made available or is to be made available to another, and
(b) he knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that it will or may be used for the purposes of terrorism.
(Emphasis added)
The appeal concerned the correct interpretation of the phrase ‘has reasonable cause to suspect’ in the
Terrorism Act 2000. The phrase is commonplace within the 2000 Act, appearing in several substantive
terrorism offences. Indeed the phraseology is not unknown to criminal practitioners who will be familiar
with its presence in relation to police powers, offences concerned with money laundering and other
terrorism-related offences. What is noteworthy at this stage is the two-step approach adopted by the
legislators in dealing with the second element of the offence in s. 17(b). Particularly, the legislation
prescribes that an individual is guilty of an offence where he either has actual knowledge that money or
other property will or may be used for the purposes of terrorism or, if not, where he at least has a
reasonable cause to suspect that is the case.
The matter of contention, therefore, that appears in all cases of this sort is distinguishing between
cases of actual knowledge and cases involving a reasonable cause to suspect. The former is a subjective
question focusing on the personal knowledge of the individual concerned and asking, on the facts, what
did the defendant actually know. The latter on the other hand is an objective question requiring the trier
of fact to consider, based on the individual’s state of knowledge, whether that individual had at least a
reasonable cause to suspect the relevant circumstances of the offence. The term ‘at least’ is used here
when dealing with the reasonable cause to suspect; this phraseology is intentional; actual knowledge/
suspicion sits on a higher rung of the ladder of mentes reae than its lower, yet equally culpable partner,
‘reasonable cause’ to suspect. The distinction between these two forms of guilty mind, to use colloquial
terminology, is at the heart of the Supreme Court’s decision in Lane and Letts.
The appellants, Sally Lane and John Letts, are charged with the offence of entering into funding
arrangements connected with terrorism, contrary to s. 17 of the 2000 Act. They are alleged to have sent
money (or arranged to send money) overseas, knowing or having reasonable cause to suspect that it
would, or might, be used for the purposes of terrorism.
A detailed summation of the allegation is unavailable as the case is yet to be tried and indeed is
irrelevant to this appeal; the judgment of th e Supreme Court arises out of an interlocuto ry appeal
following a ruling from the trial judge at a preparatory hearing. Reporting restrictions have been imposed
pending trial.
The Journal of Criminal Law
2018, Vol. 82(6) 423–430
ªThe Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0022018318819556

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