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

JUSTICE SELECT COMMITTEE ORAL EVIDENCE HEARING ON FOLLOW UP INQUIRY INTO JOINT ENTERPRISE – 3rd 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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Friday, 27 June 2014

JENGbA March People's Assembly London June 21st 2014

Why March?  Seriously, what is the point?  Do the public listen to what people are shouting/banner waving about?  Does the Press care?  It seems not last Saturday when up to 50,000 people marched through London protesting about the austerity cuts.  JENGbA families wanted to march that day so I called and was told we could, of course, join in. 
We were at the back of the march, as a campaign against austerity I suppose we did not naturally seem to fit in with our anger at people being wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit and serving mandatory Life sentences.  That was ok - JENGbA families are used to our concerns being ignored (though not for much longer!).
So back to my question: Why March?  The JENGbA families seem to have got the bug!  We did one last month which was filmed for a BBC documentary that will be shown the night after Jimmy McGovern's film 'Common' and also by a group of students using the subject of Joint Enterprise for their final film for their MA in TV from City University.  To be fair having media attention did give our march an added buzz but that is not the reason I believe JENGbA families want to walk in the streets shouting "Joint Enterprise is a court full of lies!" and "No Justice, No Peace".  The JENGbA families in the North of England also held a rally in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens and via twitter and calls we realised they too felt empowered by educating people on the streets who had not heard of JE before and how it is being abused.
Families want to march because they feel helpless, angry, frustrated and depressed about what can be done when you have an innocent loved one in prison and are being totally ignored by the British justice system.  They proudly hold aloft their banners displaying pictures of their family members before they became prisoners of the State.  Kelly and Maureen's Smith dad Kevin and grandson travelled down from Liverpool for it and a mum had travelled back from Saudi Arabia to be there.  Solidarity is a very powerful emotion and since most of our families have a loved one in prison who is deemed a 'murderer' just to meet other families in a similar situation is an invaluable support network.
On the morning of the People's Assembly March, Jan Cunliffe called me to say that our friend and supporter Gerry Conlon had died and that she had spoken to Paddy Hill.   Another reason to march and empower families as that is exactly what Gerry and Paddy have been doing since they were released from prison.  Gerry showed through his own activism, even through the most difficult of personal times, that we must never forget how devastating an injustice is a wrongful conviction and never stop fighting for the oppressed and vulnerable people in prison.
JENGbA at People's Assembly March
We have always described JENGbA as a family and as we grow bigger and stronger so does our family.  We are seeing friendships being made of people who would have never met except for this campaign.  More families and supporters came to the People's Assembly march and they want to do another JENGbA march after Jimmy McGovern's film is screened on July 6th.  They have certainly got the marching bug!  We know that to be able to DO something is one of the ways families do not sink into depression and despair. And to be able to feel like you are DOING something for a whole lot of people and not just your own, is a whole different feeling of empowerment.  That will only grow as our numbers do and then we will no longer be ignored.
Finally the reason we marched with / bandwagoned the People's Assembly against Austerity is because it costs on average £50,000 a year to keep each innocent man, woman and child locked up.  JENGbA is currently supporting 450 serving prisoners convicted using joint enterprise who have contacted us.  That is at least £22.5 million annually spent on denying justice to the Joint Enterprise prisoners we know about and there could be many more whose lives are blighted by unfair convictions. 
An increasingly sinister aspect to this growing burden on the taxpayers is how much of this money goes to fatten the directors’ salaries and profits of the UK’s private prison industry.  There is something seriously wrong when the UK has more Lifers than the rest of Europe combined and has the highest percentage of prisoners in private jails in the world (yes, even higher than the USA!). 
If Slavery is about the commercial exploitation of men, women and children by unjustly denying them freedom and human rights, what does that make G4S, Serco and Sodexo?  And what does that make the directors and shareholders of these companies…or the Ministry of Justice for buying their services?
Gloria Morrison

Campaign Co-ordinator JENGbA