Thursday, 23 April 2015

HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH: JENGbA CAMPAIGNERS VISIT KEVAN THAKRAR IN HMP WAKEFIELD

Janet Cunliffe

I went to see Kevan Thakrar with Gloria Morrison at Wakefield prison on Saturday 19th April. The day didn't start too well because as I jumped on to the train to begin my two and a half hour train journey I realised the visiting order which we needed to get into the prison had slipped out of the book I had been reading in the station cafe. The doors shut and I couldn't jump off the train. At which point my knees buckled and I dropped to the floor. A bit dramatic you may think, but I really didn't want to let this young man down. It’s taken years to get a visit, with home visits from the police who interviewed both myself and Gloria before allowing us to see Kev.

I won't go into detail of how many calls I made whilst sitting on the floor of the train but I will mention so many people pulled out all the stops to try and get that VO to me at the other end, so thanks to everyone especially Andrew at Wigan train station.

Needless to say we didn't get the VO but pushed our luck with the prison staff. I had faith they would let us both in though Gloria was less confident, this was Kev Thakrar after all a CAT A prisoner in what is called the Close Supervision Centre. Prison staff get a lot of bad press especially from those who attend visits, it’s always a stressful and emotional time and some prison workers don't always understand this. However, we both have to say on this occasion they couldn't have been more helpful so we thank them for that.

This is kind of where the good stuff ends. And that's because Kev is held in isolation and has been for 5 yrs. It means visits are closed and he is situated in a very different part of the prison than the general population. He's in the type of unit I didn't know existed and once you have seen it I can say it’s a unit that most definitely should NOT exist. I've seen better pens in run down foreign zoos housing animals I don't know the names of on account of them not being cute or popular. After walking through outdoor corridors of what looked like 50 foot fences of hard steel, topped with another five feet of knife like barbed wire we travelled downwards into what appeared to be a basement like building.

Before we entered we heard a voice greeting us but it was impossible to see which window the voice came from on account of a strange mess like covering that blocked out the room inside. I noticed the doors and the stone walls were painted white but there was no real natural light. I later learned that's because the prison in its wisdom deemed the exclusion of natural light a privilege to the poor souls who resided here. I see no other reason for the screening it out not only at the window but via a structure from above that prevents it even reaching the window.

Thick bars prevented me and Glo from greeting Kev with a natural hug, but they did not prevent us from pushing our hands through or from breaking down in tears as we held those hands.

Gloria Morrison

Jan was particularly emotional, to see this beautiful young man being treated so appallingly.  I was shocked at the colour of his skin.  Kev is mixed race Scottish and Asian but the greyness of his pallor was astonishing.  Kev said it was directly down to total lack of sunlight – and pointed to the exercise yard in the CSC which was about 20 feet by 10 and covered like Jan said with this green tarpaulin so that no natural light can come through.  This violation alone is tantamount to torture – the human body needs vitamin D.  I asked Kev who else was in there and he reeled off 7 other names – the CSC only holds 8 prisoners deemed to be the most dangerous in the country including in Wakefield Charles Bronson, who is violent and has attacked officers and taken them hostage. Guess what, Bronson is allowed more privileges than Kev who defended himself from an attack by officers – WHICH HE WON IN A COURT OF LAW – and is continuously non-violent even though the officers are continuously trying to provoke him particularly when he is praying.  Bronson has got a window with curtains that he can open and close,  Kev has a window that will not close so his cell is constantly cold.  Bronson has a table unlike Kev’s which is bolted to the floor.  Bronson is allowed to exercise with the other prisoners in the CSC Kev is only allowed 30 mins on his own. He is also expected to pass all his plastic plates, cup, cutlery and toothbrush through his hatch before they will open his door for these 30mins. Bronson doesn’t.  Not that I think Charles Bronson should be in these conditions either –as Jan said animals are treated better. 

But as awful as the surroundings were, peering at Kev through bars that forbids any real contact we had a good visit and a laugh – because Kev has a brilliant sense of humour and humanity.  He told us more about his case and we had not realised he was convicted using secondary ‘hearsay’.  He was not at the scene when three people where horrifically shot.  His brother Miran was but he was also being shot at but survived.  Kev was 35 miles away yet because Miran called him earlier in the day he received 35 years.
  
Kev is also very literate and we talked books and him and Jan bonded over a dislike of TV.  He said that he has witnessed big hard men being treated like crap by the screws who do not tell them to shove it where the sun don’t shine. Why – because they are too scared of losing their TV the only connection they would have to the outside world.  Kev knows there are trying to ‘nut him off’ and the last Prison Psychologist refused to say that his PTSD was a serious mental health issue that needed him to be admitted to Rampton.  At least this psych had some morals but what about all those others that succumb to the crap that is the greasy pole of prison promotion and whatever other kickbacks there might be trading on human misery.
  
Before we headed back to our home towns Jan and I went for a much needed drink and met a local couple.  They were out and proud Tories but when we told them about joint enterprise and what we had just witnessed in the CSC they agreed with us that is was wrong.  They told us about the Mulberry Bush that was in Wakefield that the prisoners walked around on the exercise yard and hence the nursery rhyme.  A prison that was built in the 16th Century and that is still torturing human beings as they would have done then – ‘here we go round the Mulberry bush’ indeed.  

Revise joint enterprise laws: Trinidad & Tobago Newsday, April 20 2015

By Sasha Harrinanan Monday, April 20 2015

The rules governing Joint Enterprise Liability (JEL) in murder should be revised, says Professor of Criminal Law at Queen Mary University of London, William Wilson, because too many persons are wrongly charged under the current rules.

Wilson made his case at a recent lecture at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, organised by the University of London and the British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with the Hugh Wooding Law School and the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking with Newsday after his lecture, Wilson said amending JEL would not only make the criminal justice system “more just”, it would also save a lot of money and simply things in the current trial system. “At the moment, the way things work, too many people are charged under the Joint Enterprise Liability rules wrongly. It involves appeals and very, very difficult case management, and I think that is something which the criminal justice system could do without,” Wilson said.

In his lecture, he noted that under English law, “any person who participates in a criminal venture which results in a murder by one of the parties thereto is complicit in that murder simply upon proof that they contemplated the possibility that one of their number might intentionally kill or cause someone serious harm.”
President of the Law Association Reginal Armour SC,
makes a presentation to Prof WilliamWilson,
professor of Criminal Law at Queen Mary University of London

Wilson gave an example of how the JEL law applies to real life.

If a bunch of football supporters decide to have a fight with a gang of rival supporters and one of them loses his cool, takes out a knife and intentionally stabs someone to death, all the others may be liable for murder along with the killer upon proof that they knew one of their number was carrying a knife and might use it.

Wilson noted that particularly in the case of murder, there is a significant injustice arising out of JEL because a conviction for being party to a joint enterprise means that person A suffers all the consequences of a murder conviction, including the offence label and the mandatory sentence - life imprisonment in the UK, death penalty in Trinidad and Tobago - without having laid a finger on anyone and without intending anyone any harm.

Wilson also pointed out that although the killer’s conviction for murder requires proof that he/she intended death or grievous bodily harm, the accessories to murder “have the far less culpable fault of foresight of the possibility that one of their number might commit murder.”

He argued that these and other reasons point to the need for reform and in his opinion, “the most suitable mechanism is via the courts” because legislative reform in the UK would depend on a Bill being slotted into “an overcrowded and heavily political legislative timetable.”

“However the signs are that the Supreme Court is not amenable,” Wilson explained, “due to the number of appeals that will be unleashed. It is for this reason that I am banking on the Privy Council.”

He said the impetus to get the court to reform JEL could come from TT, since “any realistic likelihood” of getting the law changed would require somebody successfully appealing a case all the way to the Privy Council.

“There are two reasons why I think that’s a good idea,” Wilson told Newsday. “First of all, I don’t like the idea that people should suffer the death penalty unless, at the very least, they intended to kill the victim. And also because if the Privy Council do, do as I think they ought to, they might do, that might actually change the law in England as well, which is obviously my primary ambition.”

Under the proposal, Wilson said it may often be possible for the Crown to establish there was a killing and on the part of some of the participants, that they intended at least grievous bodily harm.

“That would, provided the jury were sure there was a murder, render all those who held such intent or belief liable as murderers. Where that is not possible, the proposed scheme would result in manslaughter convictions.”


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

JENGbA NEWSLETTER 33 - MARCH/APRIL 2015

Click HERE for JENGbA's latest newsletter issue 33, March/April 2015.

Please share this with anyone you feel should care about reforming Joint Enterprise!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

‘Justice too long delayed is justice denied’ - Inside Times


‘Justice too long delayed is justice denied’ 

Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail,1963

Somewhere in the bowels of HMP Whitemoor, Roger Khan is waiting. He has been waiting for a total of four-and-a-half years to be exoner- ated of a crime he maintains he did not commit.
In 2011, Roger was convicted of attempted murder, alongside a co-defendant, Abul Ali. The prosecution had argued that both men were responsible for a brutal attack on Abul Ali’s brother in law in Newton Abbot Devon.
In January, Roger’s appeal lawyers submitted a supplement to his application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), the inde- pendent public body that reviews potential miscarriages of justice. The CCRC is now eval- uating Roger’s case, and will decide whether it can proceed to the Court of Appeal. For wrongfully convicted prisoners, getting their case referred to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC is their only chance of exoneration once a first appeal has failed.
Like so many wrongfully convicted prisoners, Roger simply cannot fathom how he can still be in prison. To him it is blindingly obvious that he should not be there. Soon, he hopes the CCRC will come to the same view.
Three weeks before the police came knocking at his door in November 2010, Roger had accepted an invitation from his nephew Abul to take a ride out of London to Devon, to help with the driving in exchange for a change of scene, some spending money and a train ticket home. Both Roger and Abul have con- sistently stated that Abul simply told Roger that he, Abul, had to see someone in Devon and that he would be staying the night there, which is why Roger would need to get a train back to London
Roger and Abul both recalled that Roger was dropped off near the railway station at Newton Abbot almost two hours before the attack took place. Roger states that he stopped at a pub for a drink, missed the last train home, had another drink and slept in a summerhouse in a nearby park before spending the following day seeing the local sights and finally catching a train back to London.
It appears likely that Abul did have a very par- ticular reason for going to Devon that night, one that Roger says that he had no knowledge of. The evidence suggests that the attack on Nasim Ahmed was the culmination of an ongoing family feud fuelled by allegations of sexual abuse and counter accusations of extortion, in which Abul eventually admitted involvement. Whether Abul engaged in the beating directly, or had local thugs help do it is not yet clear.
The police arrested Roger because they had discovered fingerprints and DNA evidence that showed that Roger had been in the car with Abul on the night of the attack. Witnesses and the victim were clear that the attack was committed by two men, so the police appear to have thought that because they had two men, the case was closed.

Abul eventually stated in court that he had given money to local thugs who had been hired by the victim’s business partner and brother in law to do the beating, a man called Faruk Ali, who lived in Newton Abbot. However the jury that convicted Roger did not hear much about Faruk Ali, though they were suspicious of him, having asked to know about his alibi. In a defence case statement submitted late in the trial, Abul admitted that Faruk had met up with him in his car after Roger was dropped off. DNA testing has shown that Faruk cannot be excluded as the source of some DNA found on Abul’s jacket, which also bore DNA from the blood of the victim.
The evidence being developed for the CCRC Application is suggesting more and more strongly that Roger is not guilty of this crime.
So how did Roger get convicted? Seemingly, for two basic reasons.

First, the police investigation of the crime and its antecedents appears to have been quietly manipulated by Faruk to divert attention from his own role. Faruk appears to have stayed on the side-lines and told the police only as much as he wanted them to hear to keep himself out of the frame.
Once they found DNA evidence showing that Roger had been in the car with Abul, and that Roger had at some point worn Abul’s baseball cap (which was found at the scene at some point after the attack), the police seemed to have thought that they had enough evidence to proceed against these two men.
When Roger was arrested and interviewed by the police, he insisted on his innocence but would not tell them the full story of his trip to Devon because of his bone-deep mistrust of such authorities. Roger has subsequently explained that his DNA was on Abul’s cap as he had worn it in the car to shade his eyes on the trip to Devon.
The detectives investigating the attack in Newton Abbot appear to have taken Roger’s mistrust of the police and unwillingness to talk to them for guilt and were even more certain that they had their man.
Evidence that suggested Roger was not their man was apparently not pursued. This included several DNA components derived from blood on the sleeve of Abul’s jacket that, if it came from one person, could not have come from either the victim nor Abul nor Roger. Blood on Abul’s baseball cap, and on the metal bar used in the attack was also found to contain several DNA components that were not from the victim, but the analyst stated that they were “not suitable for meaningful comparison.”
The prosecution case was that two men carried out the attack. So given Abul’s admission to involvement, and the jury’s finding that Abul was there at the scene, DNA from a third person who could not be Roger strongly suggests that Roger was not one of the two people carrying out the attack.
Roger cannot to this day fathom how this evidence of an alternative perpetrator at the scene was not considered by the Court the first time he appealed, and thus how he can still be in prison.
The second factor leading to Roger’s convic- tion was that Roger faced a trial without a lawyer to help him present his defence. Roger was assigned a duty solicitor on arrest and that firm went on to represent him. However Roger states that his relationship with this firm broke down when he became concerned that they did not act promptly to gather CCTV footage to covering his journey from pub, to pub to park. Time was of the essence as CCTV recordings are typically overwritten. Roger says that he lost faith in their ability to defend him, and told the trial judge that he needed new lawyers. A different firm was assigned, but Roger states that this firm also failed to investigate his alibi. Roger complained again to the judge, but was told he could either have the second set of lawyers assist him or represent himself. Roger felt that he could not trust the lawyers, and so ended up represent- ing himself in court on the very serious charge of attempted murder.
Crucial prosecution paperwork that should have been handed over months before trial was delivered to Roger daily in court, where it accrued in bin-liners next to his desk, as he did not have time to read it.
Of course Roger could no longer prove his alibi as so much of the most relevant CCTV footage had by this time been overwritten. Compounding this was the problem that Roger had not been able to systematically review the 700+ hours of general CCTV town centre footage that was available, in part as he could not identify which camera he might be on as he was completely unfamiliar with Newton Abbot.
Furthermore, without an expert to help him, Roger could not adequately challenge the DNA evidence used against him, despite the fact that it could be shown that DNA compo- nents derived from the blood on the sleeve of Abul’s jacket (which Abul claimed the hired thugs had borrowed from him) generated a partial profile which, if it came from one person, could not be Roger, could not be Abul and could not be the victim.
Moreover, witness statements suggest that the crime scene was not made secure by the police, with the family and other witnesses entering it at will. Roger remains very concerned about the integrity of the crime scene, especially as the baseball cap was not immediately noted in the police records.
There is plenty of other evidence to suggest that Roger’s conviction is unsafe – indeed the Application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission runs to a hundred pages and it’s a catalogue of troubling issues.
But Roger is still waiting for justice.
Roger filed his current application with the CCRC in October 2013. It took approximately 10 months for it to be assigned a Case Review Manager, and a more than six months weeks have passed since then.
Roger believes that the DNA evidence alone should convince the CCRC to send his case to the Court of Appeal.
Behind bars, Roger grinds his teeth and tries to find patience. He cannot understand or accept how the system can be taking so long to acknowledge its many mistakes. “Look at the DNA,” he says, “just look at the DNA.”
Hopefully, some day soon, someone will do just that. As Roger says, “I don’t want sympathy, all I want is a fair hearing. I wasn’t there – so why am I here?”

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Letter from Kevan Thakrar - Thank you for Your Solidarity

Thank you to everyone who turned out to demonstrate in my support in London outside Prison Service headquarters on 16 February and to all those who helped create the banners, flyers and advertised the event.

Kevan Thakrar

Since then there have been significant developments. Firstly, the attempt to have me sectioned under the Mental Health Act failed. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not something which a person can be sectioned for, so the psychiatrist refused to do the dirty work of the Close Supervision Centre Management Committee (CSCMC) and refer me to hospital.

Transfer to HMP Full Sutton segregation unit turned out to be their next attack. Greeted by a full riot squad on arrival, my treatment was never going to be good, but even I was shocked at the audacity of these discriminators who stormed my cell while I was praying, to assault me and provoke a reaction: Fortunately I did not fall into their trap; however this has only led to me being subjected to a continued and increasing level of harassment.

The problem for the CSCMC is this: I have a psychological report which stipulates that I should be returned to normal location as after five years on the CSC I do not need to remain under these conditions it goes on to say that keeping me in these environments is exacerbating my PTSD, which is disability discrimination in violation of the Equality Act. The CSCMC does not want me ever to be able to return to normal location, hence their failed attempt to have me sectioned, but they know that with this report any judge in the country will rule against them if they fail to progress me.

As they are unable to get me out of their jurisdiction, their core aim is to provoke an incident to justify my CSC status. At the same time they subject me to treatment intended to worsen my mental health in the hope of facilitating my transfer to a hospital.

They have now informed me of their intention to allocate me to the Exceptional Risk Unit in HMP Wakefield. This is the very end of the line, indefinite isolation, nobody ever leaves, except those who die of old age. During my 13-day stay at Wakefield seg back in 2010, almost the whole first week I was starved, and not a day went by without some kind of threat being made by the officers there, including extreme racial abuse.

Targeting me through the courts, I must be the only prisoner in history facing prosecution for common assault, which stems from a false allegation by an officer by the way. Wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money attempting to force through a wrongful conviction to dirty my record and bolster their other schemes, they have recruited Manchester police and the CPS to help. With legal argument due to take place on 22 May 2015 at Manchester Crown Court regarding the validity of this case, only time will tell if this prosecution actually proceeds.

I need your support now more than ever. A protest is being organised outside Manchester Crown Court on 22 May and ask for all those who can to please attend. Maybe I will hear you if you shout loud enough!

I really am in a desperate situation and the only real way out is with your support. We can stand together against this abuse and cause it to change for me and all the others who follow. The CSC system has been allowed to operate in secrecy since its creation in 1998, sending many prisoners insane. The time has come to put a stop to the ordeal. The protest on 22 May is the first real step in achieving this. I hope to see you there.

Kevan Thakrar   23rd March 2015 

Snail mail, Messages of Solidarity/Support to:
Kevan Thakrar
A4907AE
HMP Wakefield
Love Lane
Wakefield
WF2 9AG

Or better, faster and Kevan gets the message, within a couple of hours of sending use:
Email a Prisoner - Cost 35 p per message
http://www.emailaprisoner.com/



Saturday, 28 March 2015

JENGbA March to 10 Downing Street 2015 17th March – St. Patricks Day

The JENGbA campaigners, keen to keep our message on track in light of the Justice Select Committee’s Report vindicating our concerns that joint enterprise is leading to miscarriages of justice, decided to hand in our current petition to 10 Downing Street before  the coalition government dissolves at the end of March.   We have over 10,000 hard copy signatures and thousands more on the online petition but this was not really about numbers – it was about making a noise and getting more press attention. 

JENGbA at 10 Downing Street


We informed the Inside JENGbA campaigners (what we call our loved ones serving prison sentences for crimes they did not commit) in our last newsletter of the March and also managed to get an article in the March edition of Inside Time so we were hopeful of a good turnout.  We also advertised it on our active Facebook page and Twitter account as well as the website.  Every time we have done a march we have asked permission from the Met Police (if in London). We had a positive response this time from the Met in that they would not send Police to cover the march as they could see from their records that we are a peaceful bunch. In fact, the last march from St. Pauls to Royal Courts of Injustice the two officers accompanying us when asked about joint enterprise said that it seemed very wrong! We also had to get permission from the Downing Street Liaison Police and submit information about those who were going to hand in the petition, only six campaigners being permitted. Since Jimmy McGovern had agreed he would hand it in with us we decided the other five as those of us who keep the campaign on track on a daily basis. 

Whenever we have an event, I always expect the phone to be busy and it was.  BBC London Live wanted to do an interview with campaigners so Charlotte Henry (supporting her brother Alex Henry 19 years rec) Deb Madden (supporting her friend Kujtim Spahiu 33 year rec) stepped up and the two of them did a grand job. But the phone also kept ringing with people asking directions to Victoria Coach station!  Still I was nervous we weren’t going to get a big enough turnout.  Asking people to travel to London, when most are on really low incomes and struggle to make prison visits, on a Tuesday afternoon is a big ask. Also because Jimmy McGovern had agreed to march along with Colin McKeown, the producer of ‘Common’ his drama on the subject, and Andy Tiernan and Susan Lynch stars of the drama, I desperately hoped we were not going to be a rag tag sad little bunch of protesters. 

How wrong I was.  Victoria Coach station entrance was already mobbed when I arrived. Again families had travelled from Kent, Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, Croydon, Liverpool, Wales, Birmingham, Norfolk, Derby, Wigan, Luton and they were just the families I recognised. The colour red (JENGbA’s adopted colour) was awash everywhere, lots of banners new ones made especially and lots of pictures of our beautiful and never to be forgotten loved ones in prison. We had also decided to have yellow ribbons to tie around trees on route symbolic of the fact we want our loved ones home and Michelle Hamner had made brilliant yellow ribbons that families where tying to lapels with their loved ones names on and Lisa (Tommy McInerny aunt and mum) had a friend knit her an 20ft long yellow scarf.  By the time we set off we were easily over a hundred and Jimmy, Colin, Andy and Susan shouting along with the rest of us.  This was easily our largest and loudest march yet. Deb headed it up towards Whitehall with a loudhailer and I had another mid route but some of the families around me were louder than the loudhailer!

It was a good route to march as we passed Scotland Yard and into Parliament Square we also passed the Supreme Court where Ameen Jogee cases has been accepted for consideration this year. Finally the Supreme Court will have to sort out the mess that is joint enterprise charging once and for all and this is another sign of the success of our campaign.  Somewhere along the route we adopted a very nice police officer who stopped traffic for us and for this we were very grateful, getting across busy London streets with such a long procession was tricky as well as the fact that a number of our campaigners were elderly citizens and children. 

As we approached Downing Street I could see the smiling faces of more JENGbA campaigners who had agreed for various reasons to meet us there. We were late, and they told us after they could hear us long before they could see us which they had told the police officers at Downing St would be the case. Once again these officers were really helpful, our slot to hand in was 3pm but it was nearly half past but they accommodated us after requesting that the marchers continue the rally on the other side of the street. Our ID was checked and we were informed that the BBC and ITV were waiting for us and not to just knock on the door as that would be our ‘moment’ over but to savour our time and get pictures. When we did knock it was surprisingly loud and we jumped back in surprise which is why in the pictures Patricia and I are laughing with shock.  Jimmy and Jan Cunliffe did interviews with the awaiting press and we went back to join the others outside.  

JENGbA’s is a peaceful campaign about a really sad and desperate subject but I read recently in an article about Revolution that one of the things that will bring that about is humour.  So this time we had Pinata – a donkey that had a yellow ribbon on it saying the ‘law of joint enterprise is an ass’.  The fantastic Goddaz bravely held it aloft so that a young girl could beat it with her JENGbA stick but we had to get an older boy to really batter it because they are so hard to break. The young girl did the last few blows though and sweets flew in all directions.  If only our loved ones could too.

After singing ‘Something Inside So Strong’ by Labi Siffre we took ourselves for a well earned drink.  Lots of photos were taken on the day and some are on the website – a lot more will go up soon and we have to thank Geoff Halsall for being official photographer.  These photos really catch the spirit of the day and show exactly who this doctrine is targeting as lots more families from BME communites are gaining the courage to stand up and be counted.  My favourite is the one of Jonathon Long’s dad, Roy.  The utter determination in his face that his innocent son should not be in prison says it all. 
   
Gloria Morrison Campaign Co-ordinator JENGbA

Friday, 6 March 2015

JENGbA visit to HMP & YOI Swinfen Hall.

Considering all the prisons I have visited supporting JENGbA’s Inside Campaigners,  it is surprising that this was the first time I have been to a Youth Offending Institute. It has been something on JENGbA agenda (getting our message into the YOI’s) for some time, as we do not have many YOI’S on our database. Since it is clearly the most easily identifiable target group for police and prosecutors, this begs several questions.  Young people naturally hang around in groups; groups not gangs, and it is this demographic that joint enterprise exploits. Yet these same young people often don’t understand why they have been convicted of serious offences when they have not committed them, many may have lost family support so they do not know about a campaign such as JENGbAs.
Yesterday I drove with the parents of Joseph to Lichfield in Staffordshire where their son has been for the last two years.  He was convicted aged 15years old and spent the first two years in HMP & YOI Wetherby which his family said was a nightmare for them and his friends to get to. Joe is a young man who definitely believes in our campaign. He was sitting in the visitors’ room proudly displaying our latest newsletter which had his rap printed on the front page. I didn’t expect the emotional wave that hit me when I sat down, Joe is a really handsome mixed race young man now 20 years old with a smile to die for, and even though he is in the worst of places, positivity and intelligence exuded from him.
Joe Appiah
 I asked him how many other JE cases were in Swinfen Hall and he said lots but as we suspected many had given up hope in any future and did not know how a campaign could help them.  Joe does. He is very proud to be JENGbA and he was very proud that his mum took part in the BBC documentary ‘Guilty by Association’.  His mother was indeed very nervous about taking part as she is naturally very reserved. It was Joe who convinced her to do so and her contribution meant that the next day officers on Joe’s wing told him they felt very uncomfortable about his imprisonment and finally had an idea what joint enterprise was all about. 
So what happened resulting in Joe serving a Life sentence? He and a group of friends, some who were known to the police as troublemakers, though not Joe,  went to a park in Sydenham to have a ‘beef’ with another group of boys from a different area.  This has happened since time immemorial there is no point in trying to pretend it will ever end if young boys do not have anywhere to go that can keep them occupied, like decent amenities such as youth centres.  Joe and Edward Conteh were chased by this group of boys, some of whom were carrying weapons to the far side of the park. One of them threw a knife at Joe which missed him but Joe picked it up.  Edward and Joe immediately ran away down the street and got on a bus that others who had been involved in another fight 200 yards away were also on. This was entirely coincidental but Joe’s dad believes that if he had not run that way he too could have been a victim. Sadly on the other side of the park an entirely innocent boy was stabbed.
Joe did not witness this attack let alone participate in it, nor did he have any kind of weapon except the knife that he had picked up and thrown away.  Twenty boys were originally arrested one of them was simply on the bus but had not been in the park. This boy was a friend of Joes, but he gave a statement describing Joe witnessing the fatal stabbing including details that neither he nor Joe could have known about because neither were there.  Charges against this boy were dropped.  We see this often in joint enterprise charging, the police will threatened weak witnesses with the most serious charge of joint enterprise murder if they don’t turn Queen’s evidence and corroborate their version of events. 
Once again the foreman of the Jury was a police officer, once again the boy that did the murder pleaded guilty, the deceased was stabbed once by this boy, but still others were brought in including Joe who was convicted of murder and Edward who was convicted of manslaughter.  Edward is now in a detention centre in Dover where they are trying to extradite him back to Belgium where he knows no- one, his mum and sisters are in London desperately trying to get him home with them. Another boy in the case has already been extradited to France Joe told me.
Joe does not believe he had a fair trial and some of the details he told me assured me that he didn’t. These were children, whose trial was held in the Old Bailey, who were all BEM and labelled a gang, which they weren’t.  Yes there was a very tragic murder and they boy who did that is serving a Life sentence for it but how can boys running away from an armed group be charged with that murder when they are 200 yards away?
Joe is a very talented rapper and singer and at mum’s insistence he sang one of his songs for me. It was spellbinding – he literally has the voice of an angel.  Joe insisted on showing me the difference of the poem on our newsletter when it is rapped; with Joe’s cadence it became alive.  The JENGbA campaigners who are now keen activists and marchers have been saying for some time that we need a campaign song, Joe has agreed to write one.   Joe is really quite an amazing and lovely young man full of many talents none of which include being a murderer.
The visit was drawing to an end and a young man from the service hatch came to our table and Joe introduce Jeffrey as another joint enterprise case.  I asked him what was his tariff and he replied sadly 19 years. I asked him why he had not contacted us and he said he didn’t know how to so Joe’s dad got a pen and paper from the prison officers and I took his name and number.  How many more YOI’s don’t know how to contact us?  We are now supporting nearly 550 prisoners and if they all did I am sure that number will run into the thousands.  JENGbA did expect a high volume of prisoners contacting us after Jimmy McGovern’s film ‘Common’ was shown in July,  followed by the documentary ‘Guilty by Association’ the following night, and then a feature on Newsnight the next.  But Joe told me something very illuminating; on the wings A,B and C at HMP & YOI Swinfen Hall where the youngest prisoners are held, something happened to their television reception that week and none of them saw any of those programmes.  If they could do that at HMP Swinfen Hall how many other YOI’s did that also happen in?  These children are a very valuable commodity to the Prison System, especially if they are Lifers, clearly some prison profiteerswouldn’t  want to upset that apple cart would they?
JENGbA sent a letter to every YOI pastoral team (50 plus) asking them to let young people know about our campaign if they were wrongfully convicted using joint enterprise.  To date we have had one response.  If even those whose mission in life is to help the most vulnerable are unable to help us, where do we go to get help for these children who are the most helpless?

Gloria Morrison
Campaign Co-ordinator JENGbA