Friday, 25 September 2015

Campaigners crowdfund fees for crucial Supreme Court intervention - Mischa Wilmers

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Campaigners crowdfund fees for crucial Supreme Court intervention

(Originally published in the Big Issue in the North)
A group of women campaigning against the law of joint enterprise have successfully crowdfunded their legal fees for a critical intervention in a forthcoming case at the Supreme Court. 
Janet Cunliffe of JENGBA visiting her son Jordan prison
Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGBA) used the pioneering website, Crowd Justice, to raise over £10,000 for an intervention in the case of Ameen Hassan Jogee, whose appeal of his 2012 murder conviction will be heard by the Supreme Court in October.
JENGBA’s lawyers will seek to use the intervention to argue that the controversial joint enterprise doctrine has led to a number of miscarriages of justice and the excessive criminalisation of secondary participants in murder cases. 
Janet Cunliffe, a co-founder of JENGBA whose son Jordan is also appealing his conviction for the 2005 murder of Gary Newlove, said she hopes the intervention will lead to the law being amended:
“This is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to go to the Supreme Court with a valid argument. I think the Supreme Court will come out in our favour and once the judges clarify how the law should be amended then the government can act on that.”
Joint enterprise is a doctrine of common law under which a person who is not directly implicated in a murder can nevertheless be convicted as part of a group if it is proven they could have foreseen the killing taking place. The law is designed to facilitate the prosecution of entire groups for murder, regardless of who dealt the fatal blow.
However, critics argue it amounts to guilt by association and last year a House of Commons Justice Select Committee inquiry called for an “urgent review” into the doctrine, warning that it could lead to miscarriages of justice.
Despite the report’s warnings the use of joint enterprise in murder prosecutions remains widespread. In July JENGBA penned a letter to Lord Chancellor Michael Gove urging him to “place an immediate moratorium on the Crown’s use of joint enterprise, until reform or preferably abolition occurs”.
The group’s successful crowdfunding campaign is one of the first to be successfully funded since Crowd Justice was founded earlier this year. Cunliffe hopes the venture will help raise money for other individuals and campaigns who are struggling to afford the costs of accessing justice due to legal aid cuts.
“I think it’s very sad that people have to go to that extreme in order to get adequate legal representation,” said Cunliffe, “But I also think it’s positive that people can get the funding they need off their own back by using Crowd Justice.”
The website allows individuals and groups - who have the backing of a lawyer but cannot afford legal fees - to pitch their cases to an online community of backers. It was founded earlier this year as a social venture by former UN lawyer, Julia Salasky, who hopes the scheme will help in the quest to “democratise justice”:
“If you’re not a very wealthy individual it’s actually extremely expensive to access the courts. There have been huge cuts in legal aid and in some areas court fees have gone up over 600% over the last 12 months.
“We set up Crowd Justice to look at ways that people can come together to overcome those financial barriers when there’s a court case that affects their community or an issue that’s important for them.”
Earlier this year a report by Unite the Union and Goldsmiths University of London estimated that the government’s £350million cuts to the legal aid budget since 2013 have had “extremely negative impacts” on 623,000 people – the vast majority from disadvantaged sections of the population.
Salasky hopes Crowd Justice can be useful to some of these people and is especially excited about JENGBA’s successful campaign which she predicts could have a significant social impact:  
“Often in legal cases you’re holding the government or others to account which is a very powerful democratic privilege.
“In this case what is so exciting is that by going to the Supreme Court they really have the opportunity to change the law. To be able to crowdfund that and have all sorts of people feel they were part of that historic moment is pretty powerful.”

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

JENGbA Newsletter Issue 35 July-Sept 2015

You can view/download/print JENGbA's latest Newsletter Issue 35 July-Sept 2015 by clicking HERE

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

JENGbA shortlisted for Liberty Human Rights Campaign of the Year Award 2015

Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) are delighted that we have been short-listed for the Liberty Human Rights Campaign of the Year Award 2015.

This is a huge honour and a welcome acknowledgement of our achievements over the last 5 years in highlighting the abuse of Joint Enterprise charging to convict innocent people. JENGbA have always believed that joint enterprise systematically over-criminalises secondary parties and frequently results in innocent people being given mandatory life sentences. The effect of a life sentence is not only devastating for prisoners but on their families and wider communities also, which is why we have always seen this as an important human rights issue.

It is now recognised that the law of joint enterprise is in urgent need of reform by leading academics, MPs and former members of the Judiciary. Our campaign has brought this crucial issue to prominence and the injustice caused by joint enterprise is now being heard by the Supreme Court in October this year.

JENGbA believes that reform is imminent and we will continue our fight for justice for those already imprisoned.  We thank Liberty for recognising the importance of our work by short-listing us for this nomination and wish our co-nominees good luck at the Awards ceremony.

Friday, 28 August 2015


The Case For Treating Joint Enterprise As A Human Rights Issue

5 Years’ Worth of learning

When JENGbA was first formed in 2010, we wrongly assumed our campaign was only relevant to the Criminal Justice System of England & Wales, and that the amount of people we believed to be unfairly convicted of murder would be small.  As our campaign grew, the numbers of men, women and children we discovered serving life sentences for the actions of others increased to the point where there are now 500+ known to JENGbA who believe they have been unjustly prosecuted and excessively punished for lesser or even no role in homicides.  And we began to discover people claiming unfair conviction in other countries: Northern Ireland, Scotland, Republic of Ireland – all sentenced to life imprisonment under variants of Joint Enterprise (e.g. “Art & Part” in Scotland). Then more cases emerged of people in former British Colonies or parts of the Commonwealth, particularly in the Caribbean and Australia.

As JENGbA learned more about the legal notion of “Common Purpose”, a similar thread emerged – the influence of English judicial decisions in legal systems which follow the common law or which treat the decisions of our courts as authoritative.  The more we looked at cases and media reports of crimes involving homicide around the world, the clearer the picture emerged.  The notion of “Collective Guilt” is repeatedly used to transfer or share liability between people accused of involvement in serious crime where death had occurred.  We also became aware of variants of Joint Enterprise  which have similar effects – the Felony Murder Rule used in some parts of the United States, the Law of Parties used in Texas, Joint Criminal Enterprise used in Queensland & New South Wales in Australia, even in The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  The same process is in place – “rounding up” the criminal liability of people to that of the most serious offence, then convicting people for that offence and punishing them for it.

Fair Justice -v- Public Interest?

JENGbA is very aware this is a difficult, complex and highly contentious area of justice.  It is fraught with emotions on all sides and the stakes are high.  For some, it is sophisticated judicial practice where society sees that all who cause unlawful death pay for their crime together.  For others, it carries inherent unfairness and a high risk of miscarriages of justice in order for the police and prosecutors to “get a good result”.  And some would even argue, like the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Faulkner, that the issue is not whether the system leads to people being wrongly convicted, but whether we need a “draconian law” which allows a jury to convict even a “peripheral member of a gang which killed”. We strongly disagree with Lord Faulkner.[1]

JENGbA believes that justice should be applied fairly and consistently, and that individuals should only be made to account for their own acts rather than be held liable for the wrongdoing of another.  In the case of Joint Enterprise as it is used in criminal trials in England & Wales, it is undeniable that the low evidential threshold has led to a growing number of wrongful convictions and unjust life sentences for murder.  And there is no sign this will change without the intervention of the UK Supreme Court and/or legislation by Parliament. 

What does JENGbA do?

Our lobbying and campaigning for Joint Enterprise reform and for those unfairly convicted to be released or fairly re-tried has included submissions to the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, lobbying of Members of Parliament, demonstrations, speeches, using mainstream and social media to get our growing voices heard, and now  in making representations to the Supreme Court. 

We are at heart a group of ordinary families, friends and supporters of prisoners serving lengthy sentences for crimes we believe they did not commit.  But JENGbA’s campaign is also supported by politicians, legal professionals & academics, and even by the Law Society which has consistently called for reform.  And the Justice Select Committee has twice called for urgent changes to the way courts in England & Wales apply Joint Enterprise.

But is it really a Human Rights Issue? 

Should we care about the way Joint Enterprise is also abused in nations and states outside the UK? JENGbA feels we must.  In fact, we are beginning to get involved in Joint Enterprise cases in the Caribbean.  (One particular Jamaican case has a bearing on the pending Supreme Court’s consideration of Joint Enterprise.)  It is also very relevant that JENGbA has been short-listed for the Liberty Human Awards 2015 for Campaign of the Year.  In particular, Liberty highlighted our “campaigning to reform the law doctrine of joint enterprise, persuading the Justice Committee to recommend urgent change.”

We feel we are getting our message across to highly respected civic and campaigning organisations that Joint Enterprise is an affront to justice.

And JENGbA will not stop until we see reform.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Thank You Ten Thousand Times!

Thank You Ten Thousand Times!

Dear All

JENGbA launched itself onto the Crowd Justice site hoping to raise £10,000 so we could intervene at the Supreme Court to consider the question of the harm the concept of Joint Enterprise causes secondary parties.  It was an amazing opportunity to be part of a change in the law.

A massive ask, many people may have thought, but never under estimate the love and determination of JENGbA families and supporters. Facebook was ablaze every night with the link to the Crowd Justice Site being shared and promoted at every opportunity. Twitter was inundated with Tweets until it became like a song, email traffic we are sure was also tested along with the Royal Mail. Numerous phone calls were made to rally the troops and to let them know they could be part of something important. Every donation mattered however big or small.

And we did it in style reaching our target with 6 days to go!! The final amount raised was £10,145 - a phenomenal amount in such a short space of time.

JENGbA wholeheartedly would like to thank everyone involved in raising this money, everyone please take a bow!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Friday, 10 July 2015

Crowd Justice Appeal: Change the law on joint enterprise

What our case is about

This is the first Supreme Court case to consider the question of the harm the concept of joint enterprise causes secondary parties. This is a real opportunity to change the law.

The doctrine of Joint Enterprise leads to miscarriages of justice

Right now, hundreds of people are serving time in UK prisons for crimes they did not commit.
Many of them are serving long sentences, of 15 years or more, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are our sons, daughters and friends and they are suffering the consequences of a grave injustice.
The Joint Enterprise law is over 300 years old and was initially created to discourage the use of illegal duelling. Today, however, it is increasingly being used to prosecute people for violent crimes where they are alleged to have lent encouragement to the main perpetrator. In the last ten years it has increasingly been used to prosecute all those present at the scene of a crime even where there is no evidence that the violence was planned and where there is little or no evidence that many of the alleged participants intended that the crime should be committed. Some of those convicted under this doctrine are:
  • Jordan Cunliffe was 15 years old when he was convicted of murder. Some of Jordan’s friends became involved in an altercation with a neighbour, who was struck to the back of the neck. This resulted in a fatal sub-arrachnoid haemorrhage, rare injury caused by a single punch or kick. There was no evidence that Jordan struck this blow. He said that he was more than ten feet away at the time and could not see what was going on. Jordan suffers from a rare eye condition and his vision at the time was so poor that he could have been registered blind. Despite this, the jury was directed that they could convict him on the basis that he encouraged the violence merely because he was present at the scene.
  • Laura Mitchell is a young mother who was training to be a midwife. She and her boyfriend were in a parking lot outside a pub when a friend committed a fatal assault. At the time of the attack, Laura was looking for her shoes. She and her boyfriend went to the police station to help with inquiries. It did not occur to her at the time that she was a murder suspect. Under the doctrine of joint enterprise they were both convicted of murder and sentenced to 12 and 13 years in prison respectively.
Jordan and Laura are just two of hundreds of people who are being convicted under this antiquated law and the injustices have to stop. Pressure from campaign groups like ours forced an inquiry into the use of the law in 2011, but it still remains in force. If enough of us come together we can put more pressure on the government to make sure this law is abolished for good and ensure that no other families have to watch their innocent children waste their lives away in prison.

The legal case

The Supreme Court has been asked to conduct a fundamental review of the law of joint enterprise, in particular as it operates in murder prosecutions. It has been asked to answer two questions.
The second of these - the one that's key from our perspective - is whether joint enterprise "over-criminalises secondary parties".
This is an area in which we have become experts through our work over the last five years. We are able to show exactly how miscarriages of justice have occurred as a direct result of the application of the doctrine of joint enterprise. JENGbA’s proposed intervention is a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the law.
  • In its submission, JENGbA will analyse the factual matrix underlying a number of joint enterprise based convictions, focussing in particular on homicide cases.
  • JENGbA will illustrate the ways in which the current law over criminalises secondary parties drawing on the many joint enterprise cases which we have encountered in the course of our campaigning work.
  • We will support proposed reforms to the law.

This case goes to the core of the British justice system - and the society we live in

JENGbA genuinely believe that we can now prove joint enterprise charging is a blight on the British Justice System. Some of the UK's leading academics and members of the judiciary have questioned whether it is fit for purpose and agree that it is leading to miscarriages of justice.
Any citizen who believes in natural justice should donate.
Joint Enterprise creates more victims by giving innocent people mandatory life sentences. This can affect anyone - but as we will show, it disproportionately discriminates against poor and marginalised communities.

How much we are raising and what we are using it for

JENGbA is hoping to raise £10,000 for the analytical work to be done by our lawyers - leading human rights and criminal solicitors ITN, and leading barristers at Doughty Street. Our lawyers are analysing a number of cases where miscarriages of justice have occurred.
We would ideally like to raise £15,000 for an even more detailed analysis of cases - there are so many where the secondary party has been over-criminalised.