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Joint Enterprise


Guilty by Association: BBC1 programme on joint enterprise

In the course of this programme, Frances Fitzgibbon QC says:

‘I’ve described the law of joint enterprise as a drift net. You drop your drift net into the ocean, and you pull up all sorts of fish, big and small, and you hope that someone’s going to drop the small fish back in before it’s too late, but you can never be sure that’s going to happen...

‘The use of joint enterprise doesn’t in theory dilute the usual principles of the prosecution having to make their case and having to make the jury sure, but what it does is place an enormous burden on a jury to read the minds of defendants, who are themselves required to read the minds of other defendants, and I think that’s a burden they shouldn’t have to carry.'  

Click here to view the programme on BBC iplayer

Jimmy McGovern's drama on joint enterprise broadcast BBC1 6 June

Click here to view on BBC iplayer

Screenwriter Jimmy McGovern talked Common on BBC Radio 4's Front Row programme on 30 June 2014. This is an excellent and concise account of how the joint enterprise law is used.

It began with a quote from the drama in which a police officer says:

“In the old days we worked hard to establish who it was that used the knife. He’d get done for murder, and the other scumbags would go free. Well now it’s all changed. We don’t have to prove who used the knife any more, ‘cause you all get done for murder, if you were there, egging him on, backing him up, a phone call, a knowing look eve, you get done for murder.”

Jimmy said his script was partly based on the case of Jordan Cunliffe, 'who is doing a long, long term inside now for his part in the murder of Gary Newlove, and I have to say he shouldn’t be inside.'

Q. Based on what evidence?

He was almost blind at the time. The thing he was accused of was, he stood and watched. He played no part in the murder, but he stood and watched, and thereby encouraged the perpetrator, but he couldn’t stand and watch because he was technically blind at the time.

The interesting thing is, all these cases have lots of things in common. Nine times out of ten, you get injustice because you get lousy lawyers – poor people get lousy lawyers – and you’re there, you’ve been accused of a crime, you’ve got this lousy lawyer who’s terrified of defending you because he knows it’s virtually impossible to defend you against a charge of joint enterprise murder. Therefore you do deals, you accept, say, a charge of conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm, which “only” carries a sentence of ten years. The barrister will tell you that’s better than defending you against a charge of joint enterprise murder, where the burden of proof is so low.

Q. The argument against that – and I’m going to quote the DPP Alison Saunders – she said it’s a vital legal tool because, and I quote her, ‘it’s not very clear who did what’, and she says, ‘if you’re just standing there, we won’t prosecute you.’ What’s wrong with that?

I could tell you stories of people doing long stretches who weren’t even at the scene. The dice is loaded against you. For instance, if you use a mobile phone, if you’re a young man and you phone your friend and that friend goes out and kills a person, you have conspired, because you used the mobile phone immediately prior to that incident. If you don’t phone your friend, and you don’t phone your friend for 24 hours, you are maintaining radio silence. That too is highly suspicious, that too is used against you.

There’s a wonderful letter from Chris Grayling, minister of justice, and he says even a knowing look is sufficient. It’s absolutely scary. And of course, look at where it’s used. In London, poor black lads, up in the north, loads of working class kids.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b047ws84

JENGbA gang of 4

Email received 9 February 2012:

As the founding members of Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association, we have decided, in the light of recent personal conflicts within the committee, that we must take the step of disbanding JENGbA in its current form.

Gloria Morrison
Janet Cunliffe
Cath O'Hanlon
Yvonne Belardini

However, JENGBA continues to send out newsletters and occasionally updates its website www.jointenterprise.co

Many people have reported difficulty in accessing JENGBA's Newsletter no.17 for July 2012, so we have put a link to it here - JENGBA says: "Please share with anyone you feel should know about our campaign."

Click here to read JENGbA's constitution

 


Following the publication of the Report into Joint Enterprise Law by the House of Commons Justice Committee late on 17 January 2012, the following day was filled by intense media interest in the subject in general and JENGbA in particular.
JENGbA's campaign co-ordinator Gloria Morrison (right) was interviewed on BBC National TV News.
Interview with Gloria in article on Justice Gap website
Article 'Tenuous Evidence, Unjustified Inferences' by Andrew Green on Justice Gap website


Gloria Morrison
Dr Andrew Green and Gloria Morrison give evidence about joint enterprise to the House of Commons Justice Committee 25 October 2011
click here for recording on the Parliament website
click here for PDF of written submissions
click here for PDF of uncorrected transcript of 25 Oct evidence
click here for PDF of uncorrected transcript of 1 Nov evidence

JOINT ENTERPRISE: "NOT GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION is a campaigning organisation that will highlight such cases where joint enterprise law has been applied and those convicted are stating they are not guilty of the index offence. We have been contacted by many families and hundreds of prisoners alerting that they are serving lengthy sentences (life for knife crime is minimum 25 year tariff and prisoners will always serve longer than the minimum tariff) for something they did not do, could not have foreseen, did not have the intention to do, and indeed in many cases tried to prevent from happening. JOINT ENTERPRISE: NOT GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION will campaign on behalf of, and with those wrongfully convicted." http://www.jointenterprise.co/information.html
mobile 07709 115793


The lazy law that sends innocent people to prison for 20-30 years - article by Andrew Green in December 2010 - click here for PDF version


Launch of JENGbA
20 September 2010

balloon launch 3 pm outside Liver Building, Liverpool L31HT

Meeting at Friends Meeting House, 22 School Lane, Liverpool L1 3BT from 6pm to 9pm
(to coincide with LibDem party conference)


Press Release in response to proposed changes in law affecting joint enterprise 8 September 2010


Murder Convictions without Evidence - text of a speech by Dr Andrew Green given at a meeting at the House of Commons on 23 March 2010 - click here for PDF version
Andrew Green is solely responsible for the content of the article, and JENGbA is responsible for none of its content or the opinions expressed in it.

Joint Enterprise's purposes are

  • to change the application of the joint enterprise law so that innocent people are not wrongly convicted by the way this law is used to permit cases based on inadequate and misleading evidence to go to trial,
  • to overturn the convictions of innocent people wrongly convicted due to the admission of inadequate and misleading evidence in trials,
  • to change or abolish the joint enterprise law itself so that those whose actions only indirectly contribute to an offence actually committed by someone else, are convicted and sentenced for a lesser offence, and
  • to overturn the convictions of people who have not directly contributed to the commission of an offence and to substitute convictions and sentences appropriate to any actual offences they have committed.

JOINT ENTERPRISE: NOT GUILTY BY ASSOCIATON
REDRESSING THE INJUSTICE OF JOINT ENTERPRISE CONVICTIONS

BACKGROUND

The joint enterprise law is over 300 years old and has been little used in modern times, until the last ten years when it has been applied with increasing enthusiasm by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and judges to convict all of those present at the scene of a serious crime, usually murder, regardless of whether they were aware of any plans or intention for a crime to be committed.

Once used to discourage the illegal practice of duelling, so that not only the combatants but also the seconds, medics and witnesses who attended duels could be held responsible, the law is now applied very differently. People can be held responsible for the most serious crimes if courts can be convinced only that they knew that the crime might happen, and that they somehow encouraged the person who actually perpetrated the crime. Derek Bentley, a vulnerable teenager, was hanged despite public outrage in 1953 after being convicted of murder under joint enterprise law. His conviction was overturned almost fifty years later exclusively due to the efforts of his sister Iris.

All those convicted under joint enterprise law are held to be guilty of the main offence. Someone who stands at the back of a crowd while another person on the other side murders someone else, is given a life sentence just like the killer, if a jury can be persuaded that by being with the crowd, that person gave encouragement to the killer's actions. And it is all too easy to persuade jury members that they can know what a defendant intends, and even know what the defendant knows about what the killer intends.

Defendants in joint enterprise cases are often said to know the intentions of someone they have only recently met or who they may not know at all. They are said to be members of gangs when there is no evidence that the gang in question actually exists.

The evidence used in support of such allegations can be just that a mobile phone they may have used at some time was used at the time of, or near the scene where a serious crime was committed. Presence at or near the scene of a crime - even if proof of this depends on something as slight as mobile phone use - is interpreted as encouraging another person to commit the crime.

People may be convicted even when they are innocent, uninvolved bystanders or when they do not know that a crime is being committed or might be committed. Others are convicted who were nowhere near the crime scene, because they have been in touch with whoever committed the crime.

Using mobile phone use data and other leads such as sharing of cars or allegations by hidden informers, the police take the easy route to 'solving' serious crimes by rounding up all those they believe to be members of supposed gangs and threatening all of them with murder charges. Some of those rounded up escape this threatening situation by agreeing to give evidence against others that the police want to hear. Charges against them are dropped. But their evidence is still presented to courts as reliable.

The police back up allegations about gang membership by feeding courts with their opinions about gangs. This information comes from unnamed informers who may well not be reliable, and who can never be examined in court.

The joint enterprise law itself is common law, which has been developed by judges, who are the people permitting and encouraging its use and further development now. But this law has never been debated in public and has never been considered by parliament. Judges alone are responsible for deciding the types and standards of evidence they admit under this law. They are advised and informed by prosecuting lawyers and police reports, but none of the information comes from proper research or scientific data.

Instead they are swayed by sensationalist media reporting of cases and the rhetoric of politicians. They think they are helping the police to make us safer. But we don't understand how putting innocent people in prison makes us safer.

MISSION STATEMENT

JOINT ENTERPRISE: NOT GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION (JENGBA) is a campaigning organisation whose aims are:

  • to change the application of the joint enterprise law so that innocent people are not wrongly convicted by the way this law is used to permit cases based on inadequate and misleading evidence to go to trial,
  • to overturn the convictions of innocent people wrongly convicted due to the admission of inadequate and misleading evidence in trials,
  • to change or abolish the joint enterprise law itself so that those whose actions only indirectly contribute to an offence actually committed by someone else, are convicted and sentenced for a lesser offence, and
  • to overturn the convictions of people who have not directly contributed to the commission of an offence and to substitute convictions and sentences appropriate to any actual offences they have committed.

JOINT ENTERPRISE: NOT GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION will

  • highlight cases in which joint enterprise law is applied, and where those convicted say they committed no offence at the time when the crime of which they stand convicted was committed by someone else. We have been contacted by many families and hundreds of prisoners telling us that they are serving lengthy sentences (life for knife crime is minimum 25 year tariff and prisoners will always serve longer than the minimum tariff) for something they did not do, could not have foreseen, did not have the intention, and indeed in many cases tried to prevent from happening. They say that the evidence used against them is flawed and insufficient to prove guilt. JENGBA will campaign on behalf of, and with those wrongfully convicted;
  • raise awareness amongst the public, and particularly young people, of how this law is currently being applied, and invite them to support us by campaigning, lobbying and demanding change. We will stimulate a properly informed public debate on this issue, a debate which is now urgently necessary;
  • find a legal redress so that those wrongfully convicted under Joint Enterprise have the right to appeal against conviction;
  • compile a paper for the Home Affairs select committee to outline the areas of necessary reform, including the following.
  • The abolition of the joint enterprise law, or the following changes to the law.
  • A change in the test by which juries currently must apply in order to decide whether someone is actually guilty under joint enterprise law.
  • The raising of the standard of proof required to prove involvement in a joint enterprise.
  • The exclusion of police evidence on the subject of gangs and the substitution of expert evidence based on research conducted according to normal academic standards.
  • A requirement that trial judges should sentence those convicted of murder, who are clearly a secondary party, to less than a life sentence.
  • The provision of offences carrying lighter sentences on which juries may convict those who may be guilty of offences less serious than the main offence.
  • Legislation should be enacted in order for the Jury to decide to request that defendants are tried separately.

As the courts in recent years have taken a much more restrictive view on joint enterprise, it will fall upon Parliament to enact legislation. Along with the modification of the law, we will demand that cases are reviewed retrospectively so that those convicted in the past will justifiably benefit from the proposed changes in the law.

  • JOINT ENTERPRISE: NOT GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION will educate the general public, and especially young people who are the main targets of this law under the guise of “gang culture”, about its current use, and alerting them to the numbers of people in prison under this conviction. We want to change public opinion, using the cases we are currently supporting, and ask that the public insist on change.
  • We will try to redress current convictions wrongfully obtained through the use of joint enterprise law through the appeal courts so that those serving life sentences under joint enterprise law are able to challenge their convictions.
  • We will make prison authorities and penal decision aware that many people convicted under joint enterprise law are not guilty of the index (main) offence, therefore if they are maintaining innocence it is because they believe they are factually innocent. If a prisoner maintains innocence of a joint enterprise charge, s/he will often serve longer than their tariff (earliest release date), and even of the person who committed the index offence, because they will not “admit” to a crime they did not, and often could not have committed. Consequently they are not viewed as “rehabilitated” by the parole board, and refused the freedom they deserve. The impact of being convicted of a crime which they did not commit is massive, and dominates their life, and their family’s life.

Some joint enterprise cases:
Wesley Porter
Mark Collett
Jordan Cunliffe
Anthony Wood
Jordan Towers
Waqar Ahmed, Azhil Khan and Afzal Khan
Philip English

Email JENGbA


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