Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hope in the case of Gerard Childs

Hope in the case of Gerard Childs

In December 2013 my fiancĂ© Gerard Childs was convicted of murder using the doctrine of joint enterprise. He was involved in an affray in a retail park in Prescot Liverpool in July 2013.  Gerard was approached by a man in an aggressive manner and consequently in self defence Gerard threw a punch at him. He missed and a scuffle occurred. A friend of Gerard’s saw Gerard was in a threatening position and ran toward the scuffle. He pulled the man away from Gerard, lost his footing and they both fell to the ground. Immediately both got back up and Gerard’s friend punched the man once and knocked him unconscious. He then punched him again as he fell. The entire thing lasted just 10-15 seconds. The trial proved this first punch was the fatal punch and the man died the next day from a haemorrhage. No weapons were used or present and the deceased incurred two injuries in total, both admitted by Gerard’s friend.  Gerard’s family, friends and I thought the trial couldn’t have gone any better. We were defending against murder and clearly all the evidence suggested Gerard had not murdered or even hurt anyone. No evidence was against him and clearly in our minds he was going to be acquitted.  Unfortunately that was not the case; using possible foresight the CPS were able to convict both of murder. Gerard was sentenced to life with a minimum of 10 years to serve and his friend life with a minimum of 11 years. This clearly was not justice and we vowed to fight for it. So Gerard’s mum contacted JENGbA.
I attended a Cuban Five meeting along with other JENGbA campaigners and gained a lot of signatures for the petition.  It’s good to meet with people who are also fighting a cause, they just get it. Next there was a protest in Manchester and again we had a lot of sympathy for our case and support from the public. Since the screening of Jimmy McGovern’s film “Common” we have all been extremely busy keeping joint enterprise in the public domain. Firstly I wrote to my local MP, the prime minister, Nick Clegg deputy prime minister, leader of the Labour party Ed Milliband and the chair of the Justice Select Committee Sir Alan Beith. I explained to them the injustice of Gerard’s case and that he was refused leave to appeal in April 2014. I had not had a positive response and for a while and all hope was lost. His legal team however assured us they would not rest until they got him the justice he deserves. They agreed to renew his application on a pro bono basis. Whilst we waited for the appeal date, we continued to campaign and write letters.
Next stop London. This was the biggest march so far with plenty of JENGbA campaigners attending in support of their loved ones wrongly convicted using joint enterprise. We caused quite a stir in the town centre and marched proud with our banners chanting “Joint enterprise is a court full of lies” and “no justice, no peace”. We then received the hearing date of the leave to appeal and we attended the Royal Courts of Justice in July 2014. Gerard was granted leave to appeal. The reasons were: there being no evidence of a joint enterprise and no evidence of the murderous intent. There was plenty of public interest and one magazine printed; “Rainhill men win leave to appeal against joint enterprise murder convictions”.  In it they suggested Gerard had won the right because of the acknowledgement of the injustice Jimmy had portrayed in his film:
Two weeks after the screening of Jimmy McGovern’s harrowing TV drama Common, judges in London have granted two men serving life sentences leave to appeal against their convictions.”
Another article was printed in the Liverpool Echo about both Gerard’s and Jordan Cunliffe’s cases. The article read Merseyside mums fight law which saw their sons jailed for murder”.  It told the true story of that day and highlighted that joint enterprise was a 300 year old law which is imprisoning innocent people. This was a massive shift as this particular newspaper slated Gerard and his co-defendant throughout their trial. Just goes to show that the ideologies are shifting in the right direction.
The next important venue for JENGbA was the House of Commons for the select committee inquiry. I had already made a written submission on behalf of Gerard which concluded that the trial evidence did not permit him to be charged with murder in the first place. Shortly afterwards I received an email from the Justice Committee clerk explaining that the committee were aware that Gerard had been given permission to appeal. This came as a shock as the only explanation they would know this was that they must have been following his case through the courts. Again I travelled to London and plenty of JENGbA members attended and silently egged on our panel. The evidence I felt went as expected; all in our favour to say the least. After all, the injustices and inequalities of joint enterprise speak volumes in tragic real life cases. Our panel simply and brilliantly proved this. Following the meeting we rushed over the road to meet with ITV news North West region who conducted an interview with Jan and Gerard’s mum Mandy about the inquiry and Gerard’s case. We all posed for photos sporting our JENGbA T-shirts and wristbands which aired that evening on TV. BBC and SKY News also aired interviews regarding the inquiry.
I am confident that with the help of JENGbA Gerard’s appeal against a joint enterprise murder conviction will be a success and will bring hope to everyone wrongfully convicted under joint enterprise. 


Friday, 19 September 2014

Joint Enterprise: No Justice Just Victims

The Justice Select Committee follow up inquiry into Joint Enterprise gathered welcomed media attention with some of it focused on my contribution to the inquiry.
I noticed how an unconnected victim’s family member was placed alongside me in one feature, somehow suggesting we are fighting against each other. I was left feeling slightly uncomfortable with this and it had me thinking that the driving message was that only one of us was right, and like a tacky game show the audience must decide. When I started to think about it in that way it leapt from uncomfortable to offensive, then down right disrespectful.
No one in my family has ever murdered another human being and that is to the best of my knowledge. My son has been convicted of murder, not because he murdered someone, but because Joint Enterprise allows this to happen. Those with a clear understanding of how JE works will find this easy to understand and will no doubt sympathise, and those who have yet to be educated will be shocked once they are made fully aware.
Every time I say or do something I am mindful that there are mothers and fathers who have lost someone to a blade, a bullet, a kick or a punch. My son didn’t stab, shoot, kick or punch anyone. I am not campaigning because I am unhappy with the length of his sentence or saying he was involved in some way but doesn’t deserve to be called a murderer. I am saying my son is wholly innocent, that he had no involvement what so ever in the death of the victim, he played no part, had no argument and wasn’t even a witness to it unfolding.
I speak out so often because I want everyone to know and understand just how perverse the law of Joint Enterprise is. I want everyone to see my son’s case as one that is so clearly unjust that it is my boy’s name that springs to mind when they hear the phrase Joint Enterprise.
I have no challenge with the bereaved; I have only sympathy that they are forced to relive their grief through the media. I have never been party to how the media hook a story, and if I did I certainly would not ask it to be one shown as "a battle between us and them". There is no us and them, there is only injustice. The challenge is between those who apply the law incorrectly, and those who are serving unimaginable torture through a life sentence for a crime they did not commit, it always has been.
It is those who apply the law that have let both sides down. They are the ones who have created the miscarriages of justice, the never ending turmoil for the bereaved, and yet they hide behind senseless quotes, taking no responsibility and expecting two sets of victims to battle it out amongst themselves. Their media silence speaks volumes.
I have learned to cope with adverse commentary; it cannot get much worse than it already has been. As support grows so does my hope, and some victims’ families no doubt feel fear. My intention is not to hurt the bereaved, and if I ever have in any way I cannot apologise enough.
Those speaking out for the bereaved have said countless times, that I can see, speak to and hold my son, (not nearly as much as I would like to or in situations that are normal), and they cannot. I already know that, I don't need reminding. What I cannot get my head around, even all these years in to my son’s wrongful conviction, is why is my boy supposed to feel lucky he is alive, and that my family ought to take comfort from that, even though he did not murder anyone. It is as if somehow his sacrifice somehow makes the suffering for the bereaved more palatable for the rest of us. Why does someone who is clearly innocent have to suffer in order to make it better for the grief stricken, including those not connected to your own case?  It is nonsense and the very idea makes me think of some weird ancient ritual where the creation of new victims is brought about by men in cloaks and strange headwear, somehow giving power to the dead so they may rest in peace, and the new living victim must take this sacrifice with honour.
I may sound old fashioned, but I don’t believe in collateral damage, wrong place wrong time, lambs to the slaughter or sacrificing five to appease one. I believe in natural justice applied by honest Prosecutors who are satisfied they have an extremely high standard of evidence to prove you have committed the actual crime you have been charged with.  I no longer believe in "the realistic prospect of a conviction" scenario, I say that because Prosecutors are wilfully using a lousy, confusing, abusive common law doctrine weighted 99% in the prosecution’s favour, with no allowances for an honest jury to base the verdict on real solid evidence.
Joint Enterprise is about lies and the first set of people who are lied to in this entire system are the bereaved. The very people who are supposed to be at the heart of the criminal justice system. They are lied to, manipulated and used to create a fresh set of victims. And now as this abuse of trust comes to light they are made to feel as if it is their battle to quash our voices. That they must speak out and challenge those of us involved in seeking justice and bring us into disrepute.
Like I said my challenge is not with the bereaved, it is with those who apply the law. My challenge is with those who made the decision to charge Jordan Cunliffe with murder in 2007, those who chose to use Joint Enterprise to convict him, in the full knowledge this was not a gang attack, in the full knowledge of who inflicted the single killer blow and most disturbingly of all knowing that my 15 year old son was blind. And once the conviction they so desperately craved was found he was allowed to be named and vilified by the press. Not many people are aware of this, but a gagging order was enforced to prevent the public from ever knowing Jordan was blind. Like I have said Joint Enterprise is about lies, and the first set of people who are lied to in this entire system are the bereaved…..then the public, and last lie goes to the person charged.
I would like to be given the opportunity to ask those people who chose out of all those at the scene of the crime in my son’s case, to prosecute my vulnerable son knowing that Joint Enterprise (coupled with inexperience, disability and a media onslaught we could not counteract due to his age) held a more realistic prospect of conviction than it ever could with the others or another law.
"If there is honour in sacrifice, are the seven years’ unblemished prison record of an innocent blind child not enough sacrifice?”
I would like to be able to sit with them and tell them that if there is honour in sacrifice, then it doesn’t feel like an honour, it actually feels like a terrible burden. Cowards hide and right now the cowards are hiding behind people who are bereaved, people who themselves are victims.
Janet Cunliffe

Janet with her son Jordan

Sunday, 14 September 2014


Gloria Morrison and Jan Cunliffe, two of JENGbA’s founding members, today gave oral evidence to the Justice Select Committee.  Gloria had given evidence in the 2011 Inquiry but this time it was different. In 2011 no-one had heard of JE, let alone believed it was a problem. The JSC at the time were quite hostile to the idea that a ‘law’ was being misapplied or abused in our country.  Three years later and hard graft from campaigners talking up and down the country to anyone who would listen, regularly corresponding to prisoners so that our reputation in the prison system has grown as have our numbers to over 500 JENGbA ‘insiders’ wrongfully convicted, we were back giving evidence to the follow up Inquiry.   It is something to be said that a campaign like ours has achieved this much thus far, but it has been hard graft and it has been pure, relentless determination because this campaign’s guiding principle is love and justice for our innocent loved ones.  This has resulted in a drama by Jimmy McGovern, ‘Common’ was watched by 4.4 million people. Jimmy is JENGbA’s patron but anyone who knows Jimmy’s work knows also he will only write the truth about Injustice, as he did about Hillsborough and Bloody Sunday. 

JENGbA were once described as the ‘wives and mothers’ of gang members by Lord McNally in 2011 when asked by Lord Ouseley, our other patron in the House of Lords, about numbers of people being convicted using the doctrine, ‘who are unhappy with sentencing’.  He was right about one thing - we are extremely unhappy with sentencing of innocent people but we are nothing to do with gangs.

Yesterday the hearing again touched on gangs, unsurprisingly.   It is the default setting for a bad law that allow the police to describe any group of people as such.  And I regret not asking the JENGbA families who had attended the hearing to stand up – the families who had travelled far and wide in the hope and belief that their presence would somehow lend weight to just how wrong JE is.  Joanne Barr, who came all the way from North Wales whose 2 daughters aged 16 and 18 at the time of conviction, and serving life sentences.  She herself served 4 years for perverting the course of Justice because she went to the police station and told the truth!  Gillian Hyatt who was behind Jan and I, her 2 boys serving life sentences and Gina Brennan beside us whose 3 sons are in prison and who were sentenced today to 19 years Richard, 11 years Patrick and 11 years for Jack.  Not ‘gangs’, families - and we have many, many more brothers and sisters, mothers and sons, cousins and even a grandma and granddaughter.

Also giving evidence alongside us, were Dr Matthew Dyson and Dr Ben Crewe, from Cambridge University who, whilst working on a totally separate project, discovered that over half of the prisoners they were interviewing had been convicted due to joint enterprise.  The evidence they gave seemed to shock even the Committee members, the families silently cheered them on and we register our thanks to them.

After the hearing Jan and Amanda McCracken were asked to do an interview on the lawn outside the House of Lords.  Joanne Barr was walking alongside me and said that she was quite emotional that morning when she was leaving Wales to come to London and fight for her daughters.  She told me that her dad had died 5 weeks before she herself was released from prison, but before he died he told her “you must fight the law with the law” and she welled up as she looked at the House of Commons and said “and that’s what we have done today, my Dad would have been proud.”

The hearing yesterday was an important achievement for JENGbA.  Our families are dignified and proud of their loved ones and our fight.  I was proud to be sitting next to Jan Cunliffe who was brilliantly eloquent and passionate and spoke from the heart about our campaign, placing her blind son at the heart of her words but always recognising that JENGbA is the sum of many and we fight for all of them.  

So thank you all those families who made the effort to attend the hearing, your presence will have impacted on the committee members, you did all of JENGbA proud. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

JENGbA Newsletter 28 OUT NOW

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You can view, download and print the latest edition by clicking HERE

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Private Eye: A sad case of blind injustice Joint enterprise, Issue 1370

A sad case of blind injustice
Joint enterprise, Issue 1370
jordan cunliffe.jpg
WHAT JORDAN COULD SEE: Normal vision, left: and, according to expert evidence from Moorfield’s Eye Hospital, Jordan’s 1/60 vision
JIMMY MCGOVERN’s latest TV drama, Common, shows how short-cut policing can result in large gangs of youths being charged together for a crime under the law of “joint enterprise”. This enables one person to be found guilty over another person’s action, provided they are believed to have acted together for a common purpose and the outcome of that purpose – a violent attack, say – is judged reasonably foreseeable.
One of the real life events which inspired McGovern’s drama concerns the horrific murder of Garry Newlove, who died after an altercation with youths outside his house in Warrington. The pathology report said death was most likely caused by a single forceful kick to the neck. A pathologist told the court that “but for neck injury… from a single forceful kick… Garry Newlove would have walked home”.
Degenerative eye disease
Five youths were charged under the law of joint enterprise, meaning the police did not need to establish who dealt the fatal blow. Three were found guilty. One of the convicted “murderers”, Jordan Cunliffe, aged 15 at the time, had a degenerative eye disease called keratoconus which was so bad that a consultant ophthalmic surgeon told the court he could have been registered blind.
The judge told the jury they could find Jordan guilty if he was at the scene and knew that Mr Newlove might suffer serious injury. Jordan told the court that on the night of the killing he had been drinking and was behind the rest of the group, and wearing no shoes.
After two weeks’ deliberation, it is impossible to know what led the jury to convict blind Jordan for Mr Newlove’s murder, along with two others, Stephen Sorton and Adam Swellings, against whom there was stronger evidence, including DNA. There was no DNA evidence on Jordan’s clothes to link him to the murder, and his brother confirmed to the court that Jordan had been drunk and behind the group, so knew nothing about what happened because he couldn’t see.
Corneal transplant
Sorton, then 19, admitted in court to punching Mr Newlove once; he told his mother at the police station that he had kicked Mr Newlove. At trial, Sorton said that blind Jordan had kicked Mr Newlove.
Sorton and Swelling were sentenced to 18 and 19 years on the basis of eye witness evidence. Jordan was eventually given a 12-year sentence after being found guilty of joint enterprise murder.
Jordan’s vision deteriorated further in prison and he has since had a corneal transplant. New expert evidence from Moorfields Eye Hospital shows in picture form what Jordan could see at the time of the attack: his keratoconus meant he had vision of just 1/60.
Jordan’s mother, Jan Cunliffe, is campaigning against the law of joint enterprise which allows police to round up a gang of youths and charge them all together. After being refused leave to appeal, Jordan is now being represented by the legal team which took up the Hillsborough campaign.

The Law of 'Joint Enterprise': Professor Graham Virgo

Published on 11 Jul 2014

Professor Graham Virgo is Professor of English Private Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, and also Deputy Chair of the Faculty Board.

In this video, Professor Virgo considers the current position of the law relating to defendants who are prosecuted in cases of 'common purpose'. Several different circumstances are often combined to form the confused category of 'Joint Enterprise'. Professor Virgo outlines these different circumstances, criticises the current state of the law in this field, and seeks to provide some possible reforms to clarify the situation.

In April 2014, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism published the results of the first statistical analysis of 'Joint Enterprise' homicide cases. Both Professor Virgo and Dr Matthew Dyson (also of the University of Cambridge) were consulted by the BIJ as part of the investigation (see http://www.law.cam.ac.uk/press/news/2...)

A BBC documentary broadcast on 7 July 2014 examined this area of law and specifically the case of Alex Henry, who was found guilty of stabbing Taqui Khezihi, despite him claiming to have never touched the knife. (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b049bb31)

The BBC also broadcast a drama based on 'joint enterprise' law on 6 July 2014 entitled 'Common'. (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p021gb62)

Notes and structure:

1. There is no law of 'joint enterprise': no statute, no doctrine, just a tag which hides much confusion as to the state of the law.

2. Three senses of 'joint enterprise':
(a) Two principal offenders with a common purpose
(b) General accessorial liability
(i) Procures, assists or encourages the principal to commit a crime.
(ii) Intention to do the act of assisting or encouraging.
(iii) Knowing, believing or foreseeing that the principal will/might commit the crime.
(iv) Not liable where an unequivocal withdrawal.
(c) Departure from a joint enterprise ('parasitical accessorial liability')
(i) A common purpose to commit one crime (A). This purpose may be express or tacit.
(ii) The principal departs from the common purpose to commit crime B.
(iii) The accessory foresees that the principal might commit crime B as a possibility.
(iv) Not liable where crime B is fundamentally different from that contemplated.

3. The prevalence of 'joint enterprise'. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (April 2014) identified 1,853 people convicted of homicide between 2005-2013 where there were four or more participants. These are assumed to involve joint enterprise cases.

4. What has gone wrong with 'the law on joint enterprise'?
(a) The language of 'joint enterprise'. Accessorial liability is preferable.
(b) Prosecution policy. CPS Guidance on Joint Enterprise Charging Decisions (2012).
(c) The state of the law: foresight suffices, but foresight of what?
(d) Judicial directions of the jury and the dangers of inference.
(e) Complex trials involving a significant number of defendants.
(f) Sentencing, especially for murder.

5. Reform

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

JENGbA Newsletter 27 Out Now!

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