Wednesday, 25 January 2012

JENGbA NEWLETTER 12 - JANUARY 2012

You can view/save/print JENGbA's latest newsletter from HERE - please share this with anyone you feel should read it!

Friday, 20 January 2012

USING JOINT ENTERPRISE AS A 'DETERRENT' IS OBNOXIOUS - Luke Samuel


This week the Crown Prosecution Service, which is responsible for prosecuting crimes in England and Wales, announced that it would publish guidelines clarifying the law around joint enterprise. This is the common law doctrine, that has existed in English Law for hundreds of years, which allows those present at the scene of a crime to be prosecuted as if they had committed the crime themselves. The head of the CPS Keir Starmer suggested that the law was currently "too complex" and that the guidelines would include a new "threshold? meaning it may become harder to prosecute those only involved on the periphery of a crime.

The announcement follows numerous high profile cases over recent years in which the limits of joint enterprise have been tested: should a 16-year-old boy be charged with murder if he kicks a victim in the torso before the same victim dies from the injuries he sustains from another attacker stamping on his head? Should a young girl, as happened with 15-year-old Samantha Joseph in 2009, be charged with murder because she led another boy to his death at the hands of others?

These are difficult questions, but ones which juries have proved themselves capable of answering. In the trial of five young men for the murder of Nicholas Pearton in South London in 2010, the jury delivered guilty verdicts for murder, manslaughter and outright acquittals in relation to the same case. Mixed verdicts are common in cases like this because the prosecution has to prove to the jury that the defendant's intentions in carrying out a given act were the same, which is often very difficult. The jury is uniquely capable of drawing fine moral distinctions in these cases. This is why the question as to whether the law is too 'complex' is a misnomer.

Far more difficult to understand than the principle of joint enterprise are the attitudes that underpin much of the discussion around its application. Faced with the prospect that many young people may not be prosecuted for offences they were only peripherally involved in, many have begun cheerleading the idea that joint enterprise should be used as a 'deterrent' to gang activity. 

Alan Beith, the chairman of the Commons justice select committee said joint enterprise "would help deter young people from getting involved in gangs", emphasising the doctrine had a role in prosecuting "gang activity in particular". New Labour MP Sadiq Khan welcomed "the evidence that joint enterprise can have a deterring effect on young people becoming involved in criminality". Sheldon Thomas, head of mentoring charity gangsline.co.uk said "it shouldn't be complicated, if you chose to join a gang then you go down with them". Mentoring? Really? 

The idea that we should use murder law to deter our kids into behaving better is obnoxious. It represents a profound delegation of our responsibility as adults to provide young people with a meaningful alternative to crime. It encourages the heavy hand of the state to meddle in young people's lives which are often, especially if they are involved in anything resembling a 'gang', extremely complicated and fractious. At a time when we should be thinking hard about how to confront the lack of purpose and direction that many young people exhibit today, prison-hungry poshos like Thomas and Beith would rather lock them up as soon as possible.

Of course it is hard to be dispassionate about cases which carry such serious consequences. But it is vital that we maintain a clear idea about what the law, especially the criminal law, is and is not for. It is for punishing those who commit criminal offences. It is not a substitute for tackling the difficult social problems that these cases represent.
 

JENGbA Response to Justice Committee Report on Joint Enterprise

(You can view, download and print a copy from HERE)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
20th January 2011

Press Release: Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association JENGbA response to the Justice Select Committee’s report on Joint Enterprise.

JENGbA is a grassroots campaign made up of families and supporters of people convicted under the joint enterprise doctrine. We are currently supporting 275 prisoners who have contacted us since we launched the campaign 16 months ago. This important campaign has been recognised by the Justice Select Committee who took up the issue with a brief inquiry to which JENGbA gave oral and written evidence. 
 
JENGbA believes the joint enterprise doctrine should be abolished and are disappointed that the SC report did not take this approach. We were however, very encouraged that they recognised our concerns and crucially recommended urgent interim guidelines be drawn up by the DPP. We feel it is very important to stress the urgency of these guidelines so that further miscarriages of justice do not occur. Keir Starmer DPP has already acknowledged that this will take place. [Please read the conclusions and recommendations from the report 1 – 6 for further clarification]

The Select Committee recognised that as the law currently stands it is causing too many miscarriages of justice. Lord Judge recently expressed his concerns on the use of ‘possible foresight’ not actual foresight being used as evidence in joint enterprise cases. 
 
The cornerstone of our criminal justice system is that it is better that 10 guilty men walk free than one innocent man be sent to prison. Joint Enterprise turns that on its head and we have hundreds if not thousands of innocent men, women and children currently serving horrendously long sentences for something they did not do.

JENGbA supports hundreds of families who have been severely let down by the courts who had nowhere else to turn to but to this important campaign. We will continue until all those wrongfully convicted have their cases reviewed. Many families are more than willing to give their side of the story and if you would like any further information please call:

JENGbA Gloria Morrison: 07709 115793
JENGbA Janet Cunliffe: 07729 033890

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

JENGbA PRESS RELEASE 11.1.12 - RESPONSE TO LAWRENCE CONVICTIONS

JENGbA calls for review of Joint Enterprise law

The Stephen Lawrence murder trial convicted two men out of a wider group of suspects.  Their prosecution was brought under the little-understood law of Joint Enterprise.  In such cases, those peripherally associated can be found guilty while the actual perpetrators may go free. Joint Enterprise is a means by which slim evidence and "possible foresight" to a crime occuring can be used to convince a jury of more than one persons' guilt when they may have played a lesser or even no part in what occurred.  While this antiquated legal principle may be convenient, its use to convict all regardless of their actual involvement in a crime effectively turns the well-established cornerstone of British justice called Blackstone's Ratio on its head so it is "better that ten innocent persons suffer than one guilty escape".  JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association) knows of over 270 cases of prisoners convicted under Joint Enterprise who protest they are innocent of the index offence.

The Lawrence case in no way represents a success story for Joint Enterprise law. It shows the failures of Joint Enterprise, and this is because the Lawrence family and the public alike still do not know who actually murdered Stephen Lawrence over 18 years ago, or whether that person is still walking free. The Joint Enterprise doctrine encourages a "wall of silence" amongst those suspected of involvement or knowledge of a crime. This case has highlighted the use of the old law, and its flaws, showing that new guidance is urgently needed to avoid more innocent people languishing in prison while guilty people walk free.

Campaigners at JENGbA hope the current House of Commons Justice Select Committee Inquiry into Joint Enterprise will endorse the need for reform, and will acknowledge the past wrongs done in its name.  “It is time for Joint Enterprise law to be seriously revised so that innocent people are no longer serving life sentences for other peoples crimes.  Our prisons are already overcrowded, and we need to be  imprisoning those who are a danger to the public, not bystanders to other people's crimes”, added Gloria Morrison, campaign spokesman.

(For more information, please contact JENGbA at jointenterpriseinfo@gmail.com or 07709 115 793)
 
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Friday, 6 January 2012

LONDON AGAINST INJUSTICE - Meeting 10.1.12

London Against Injustice is holding its first meeting of 2012 at 7.30pm on Tuesday 10th January, Milfords Pub, 1 Milford Lane (off The Strand), London.
All are welcome.


Milfords, Milford La., Strand, London
Directions and map HERE