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








Thursday, 5 March 2015

Interview: Jengba’s Gloria Morrison speaks about unjust joint enterprise law

 A passionate and persuasive call for reform of an unfair law

Source: MyLondonDiary.com
Jengba’s Gloria Morrison. Source: MyLondonDiary.com

Every month a group of women gather in a back room at a community centre on a council estate in south London. The children running about and the Brazilian drumming band next door don’t pay much attention to them, but someone is listening.
And it’s not just anyone. Powerful members of parliament are sitting up and paying attention to what they are saying. Through sheer determination and hard work, the women have managed to put reform of the joint enterprise law firmly on the political agenda.

We explained in an article last week what the law is and why it’s so controversial.

Oh Gloria! 

One of the driving forces behind the campaign to change the law is Gloria Morrison, an organiser of charity Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (Jengba). Ms Morrison is not a lady to be under-estimated.
She is a savvy working-class woman with short white hair and steely blue eyes. Her resolve and fortitude – along with that of many others – led to the Justice Select Committee calling on Justice Minister Chris Grayling to change the law.
The MPs said joint enterprise was being used as a dragnet to haul in young men from ethnic minorities. However, Mr Grayling has put off any change until after the election.

Gloria Morrison of Jengba. Source: MyLondonDiary
Gloria Morrison of Jengba. Source: MyLondonDiary

Converted to the cause 

But even Ms Morrison was not always convinced that change was needed. She was inspired to get involved by the case of Kenneth Alexander, a black teenager who was sentenced to 16 years in prison even though he was semi-conscious on the floor during a fight and didn’t participate in an attack that ended in murder.
“When this happened to Ken, I was a completely different woman to the woman I am now. I was totally sleep-walking,” said Ms Morrison. “I thought we had a really good justice system and that if you went to prison for murder, you must have committed a murder….Now I believe there are thousands of people in prison who shouldn’t be there.
Ms Morrison set up London Against Injustice, but when she met Jan Cunliffe, a mother whose near-blind son was convicted of murder under joint enterprise, they joined forces with two others to form Jengba to speak out on the issue together.
Joint enterprise doesn’t give justice to the victims, it just makes more victims by putting people into a living death in prison,” said Ms Morrison. “You put people in prison for 30 to 35 years, they’re going to come out dead. They’re not going to come out sane.”


Let the numbers speak for themselves 

Jengba began to gather data on the unjust nature of the law. The real breakthrough came when the Bureau of Investigative Journalism did a report on joint enterprise using some of this data.
The report showed that between 2005 and 2013, at least 1,800 people and up to 4,590 have been prosecuted for homicide using joint enterprise. This represents almost one-fifth of homicide prosecutions in that period.
Another key bit of research was done by Cambridge University. Researchers interviewed 298 prisoners and found that 50 per cent were joint enterprise cases and 37 per cent of cases involved black people.
“It absolutely vindicated what I knew – that this law discriminates. There are lots and lots of young men in the prison system who shouldn’t be there,” said Ms Morrison.

Gloria Morrison and Jengba campaigners. Source: MyLondonDiary
Gloria Morrison and Jengba campaigners. Source: MyLondonDiary

Whose fault is it?  

Ms Morrison doesn’t blame Mr Grayling for not changing the law as his hands were tied before the upcoming general election, but that doesn’t mean she is a big fan either.
Grayling has done so many bad things that he is even vilified by members of his own party,” said Ms Morrison. “I can’t understand how this man thinks to stop prisoners having books is a good idea. It’s just so draconian.”
But it is not just Mr Grayling. She thinks the whole system stinks.
“I think the UK has one of the most vindictive justice systems in the world. It’s just throw away the key,” she says. “And these black kids on estates, just lock them up because they’re only going to end up in prison anyway. They mean they are more valuable in the prison system than they are out in society.”

Jengba campaigners. Source: MyLondonDiary
Jengba campaigners. Source: MyLondonDiary

The rich get justice and the poor get the law

Ms Morrison argues that the law is not applied evenly. It incarcerates a disproportionate number of young black men, but it doesn’t seem to apply to other crimes that could be classed as joint enterprise such as those of bankers, members of Parliament (think expenses) or even the police themselves.
She uses the case of a man who died after being assaulted by a police officer at a protest.
“Why are the police who stood around and watched Ian Tomlinson get battered to death – why aren’t they being prosecuted under joint enterprise? It’s one law for them and one law for us,” she says. “The rich get justice and the poor get the law. That’s a Methodist saying and it’s absolutely true about joint enterprise.”
She also points out the rank hypocrisy of celebrating the 800-year anniversary of the Magna Carta when innocent people are being imprisoned under an unjust law.
Magna Carta doesn’t exist,” she said. “It’s not worth the paper it’s written on, especially if you’ve got things like joint enterprise.”
Magna Carta signing. Source: Wikipedia
Magna Carta signing. Source: Wikipedia

Ms Morrison argues that the burden of proof has switched from the prosecution to the defence. She cites the case of one man who was in prison with two weeks left to serve when he was linked to a crime his brother allegedly committed. The spurious link was a mobile phone call he had made from inside prison using a phone he should not have had.
The burden of proof is gone. That is the cornerstone of any civilised society,” says Ms Morrison. “The burden of proof must be that the prosecution prove what people do. It’s gone. It doesn’t exist anymore.”

Charlotte Henry of Jengba campaigning to free her brother Alex. Source: MyLondonDiary
Charlotte Henry of Jengba campaigning to free her brother Alex. Source: MyLondonDiary

And just when you think it couldn’t get worse…

Ms Morrison is especially scathing about London Mayor Boris Johnson’s new Operation Shield, which allows collective punishment of ‘gangs’. She calls the law “abhorrent”. She is working with human rights lawyers Doughty Street to see what can be done to stop it.
“It goes completely against the Justice Select Committee. They just came out in our favour saying the doctrine is causing serious miscarriages of justice and is in need of urgent reform. Then one week later, Boris does this,” says Ms Morrison. “It’s political policing….he’s standing for MP, so he wants to show he’s tough on crime.”


Ms Morrison dares the British ruling class to go even further. If they are in favour of laws such as those used in Operation Shield, then she suggests they go all the way back to the past.
Put us all back into serfdom. Put us all back into tithes,” she says. “Make everyone part of a tithe of ten and then if one of them commits a crime, they can all be shipped off because that is exactly what this is.”
One thing is for certain. This tenacious woman will not stop fighting. The next stop is Downing Street to deliver a petition to the prime minister on 17 March 2015.


(Source: https://prisonwatchuk.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/interview-jengbas-gloria-morrison-speaks-about-unjust-joint-enterprise-law/)

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Restorative Justice?


Restorative Justice? 

London, 23rd February 2015. 

MOJO (www.miscarriagesofjustice.org) Project Manager, Cathy Molloy and MOJO client, Jimmy Boyle, travelled to London to participate in demonstrations designed to highlight the continuing denial of restorative justice to victims of miscarriages of justice and against the destruction of legal protections resulting from cuts to the legal aid budget and the introduction of laws that result in increased prosecutions and injustice. 

Cathy and Jimmy met up with Victor Nealon, Martin Foran and Barry George, each of whom has been abused with miscarriages of justice and proved innocent; Martin twice convicted of crimes he did not commit and twice these convictions have been quashed. Other victims joined the protest at this continuing injustice, including Paul Blackburn, who was abused with twenty-five years of wrongful imprisonment for a crime he did not commit before being released an innocent man and representatives of JENGba, (jointenterpriseinfo@gmail.com) campaigning for justice for the victims of the appalling joint enterprise laws. 

The protest convened at Westminster Hall opposite the venue for the UK Government’s Law Summit marking the eight hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. The contrast between the plentiful monies expended on this lavish beano and, for example, the £46 comprising the ‘compensation’ Victor Nealon received when he was thrown onto the streets without a roof over his head having established his innocence of a crime he had no hand in, having refused to play the criminal by acquiescing in the miscarriage of justice perpetrated upon him, was stark; a mark of that inhumanity and disregard for justice that results in the violence of miscarriage of justice and unlawful imprisonment and of Governments’ refusals to deliver restorative justice to these, their unwelcome victims. 

In Westminster, farce is ever present, and the delegates to the Law Summit, having surveyed the protest from the warmth of their conference centre, sent tea and coffee to warm the protesters. Victor was wary of accepting this offer for fear of what the cups might contain, others dryly remarked here was compensation of sorts. 

Having brought the plight of the innocent to the delegates’ attention the party moved to the Parliament buildings to join with the Justice Alliance’s (www.justiceallianceuk.wordpress.com) protest against cuts to legal aid budgets that inevitably result in the denial of justice and the proliferation of miscarriages of justice – by design. 

A horribly lifelike image of Chris Grayling, a supposed Justice Secretary, was brought to the party in stocks, accompanied by a trio of medieval musicians. Speaker after speaker denounced Governments’ determined denial of the means of justice to those who cannot afford to purchase it. All victims of miscarriages of justice were recognised when the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation hoisted the Gerry Conlon banner to loud and prolonged cheering from the gathering, including passers-by acknowledging the horror of this sadistic injustice. 

Making our way home we became aware of news reports suggesting two men who have held high Offices of State, Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind, had been discovered seeking cash for influence deals: Mr. Straw apparently seeking five thousand pounds per day, Mr. Rifkind available for hire at five to eight thousand pounds per half day. 

Both men strenuously refute these allegations insisting they are honourable men whose activities are characterised by integrity. 

Jack Straw refused Barry George compensation and restorative justice for the miscarriage of justice perpetrated upon him and the Rifkind doctrine, that can be read on the Scottish Government’s website at www.scotlsnd.gov.uk/.../law/miscarriages/compensation-scheme (Ex Gratia scheme)  is one of the devices the Scottish Government employs in order to deny Jimmy Boyle restorative justice and compensation for the crimes perpetrated upon him in the name of justice. 

Which then are the honourable men: Jack Straw or Barry George? Malcolm Rifkind or Jimmy Boyle? 

We at the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation have our answer to these questions; what is yours? 

It would be wrong not to acknowledge the warmth and humanity that exists amongst those people who deplore this violence, supposedly done in their name and interest, and Cathy and Jimmy want to put on record their thanks for the friendship, hospitality and support they received from Lucy, Jake, Arthur and Buster, not forgetting Cosmo Ra Dug. Thanks chinas!