Friday, 31 August 2012

Common Purpose

When we decided to launch a campaign against the use of joint enterprise to convict innocent men, women and children, in our infancy we were called 'Common Purpose' which is the other term used for the principal of joint enterprise. After early teething problems we decided on Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association and JENGbA was founded.  

The strike has halted production at the mine for three weeks
It is interesting, then, that the South African authorities have decided to use the doctrine to prosecute the striking miners with the murder of 34 of their colleagues by the police. No doubt many British folk who believe we have the best justice system in the world will be scratching their heads in disbelief that such an archaic and unjust principal can be used in the former British colony.  The BBC have reported today:

South African lawyer Jay Surju told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the "common purpose" doctrine was used by the former white minority regime against activists fighting for racial equality in South Africa."This is a very outdated and infamous doctrine," he said.

"It was discredited during the time of apartheid." The decision has also been condemned as "a flagrant abuse of of the criminal justice system" by constitutional lawyer Pierre de Vos.

The best known case was that of the "Upington 14", who were sentenced to death in 1989 for the murder of a policeman in 1985. The trial judge convicted the 14 activists, even though he acknowledged that they did not carry out the killing.

What most people are not aware of is that this principal is used on a daily basis in the British courts and has been for decades. The last person to be hung in Britain was Derek Bentley (a young man with learning difficulties) and he would have been charged under common purpose, not as the principal offender but as the person who infamously told his co-defendant to let the policeman 'have it', meaning give him the gun.  So when JENGbA learnt that the South African authorities had resorted to apartheid tactics to incriminate innocent protesters it came as a surprise, even to us, that anyone would use such a flagrant abuse of the doctrine.

However, people must wake up to the fact that our justice system is not just; especially when the CPS continue to use archaic doctrines like joint enterprise.  Immediate guidelines were promised by the DPP ten months ago after the Select Committee came out in JENGbA's favour that this common law needed clarification. We still await them and hundreds of people have been convicted of joint enterprise violent disorder from last August's riots.  

So, not much different to the miners striking in SA.  And as ludicrous as people are going to think it is that striking miners who are shot by the police are then charged with murder by the police need to look at the case of Anthony Grainger.  Anthony was shot by Greater Manchester Police on the 2nd March this year as he sat in his car.  Anthony was unarmed as was his 2 co-defendants sitting in the back of the car.  Their trial starts this Monday (no doubt common purpose will be used). Who is number one on the charge? Anthony Grainger the dead father of two murdered by the police.

So for those of you learning about common purpose for the first time you are probably asking why?  That is a big question but JENGbA can offer a few answers. Firstly and primarily, as we have learnt of of its use in post democracy South Africa, the doctrine is racist.  Of the 350 prisoners JENGbA are currently supporting (our numbers grow weekly) with our campaign the majority are Black and Ethnic Minorities and predominantly most are working class.  

Secondly, prisons in UK are a business and are increasingly becoming privatised. Laws like joint enterprise and IPP's ensure that 19% of our prison population are Lifers whereas the rest of Europe only 3% are lifer inmates.  We have the most punitive prison system in the world sending children as young as 13 to prison, many with autism and learning difficulties to prison, for life terms, for something they did not do but may or may not have even been present at the scene. 

An innocent Brazilian prisoner called Alex De Souza whom JENGbA are supporting, and who speaks 4 languages, recently told me from prison that many foreign nationals are arriving in Thameside after being charged with a crime.  They turn up a court, do not speak English, and have no interpreter, clearly have no idea what they are charged with or what is being said and are then are send to prison none the wiser.  These included a Brazilian man who tried to sell his single Olympic football ticket to a game he didn't want to see for its face value to an undercover cop. He was given a prison sentence. 


Whereas as a German tout who was found with over £30,000 worth of Olympic tickets was given a slap on the wrist.  Alex also told me that components for Barclays Bikes are made at Dovegate Prison.  Now there is a banking company that has had a chequered history of making huge profits in apartheid South Africa.  After attending a Promoting Prisoners Maintaining Innocence meeting last night I noticed that someone had changed the wording of this bike. -->  How apt.


And for those of you reading this who are still going to be doubting that we would not send innocent children to prison, especially a blind 15 year old child like Jordan Cunliffe, then look at this link to the judges in the US who were convicted of doing exactly that and then ask yourself:
is common purpose/joint enterprise really a doctrine we want used in the British courts? Don't forget in every other area of British law the CPS have to follow a threshold test when deciding whether a prosecution can be brought.  All except that is Joint Enterprise where there is no threshold test, nor any DPP guidelines.  Let's see what happens to the tragedy of the South African miners but people really need to wake up to what is happening in their own backyard. Join us and support JENGbA's demands that innocent people are released from prison. 

Gloria Morrison - Campaigner for JENGbA - Joint Enterprise Not Guilty By Association

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Recent acquittals - good news for the individuals, bad news for the taxpayer

The Director of Public Prosecutions has still not produced the promised guidelines for Prosecutors regarding the Joint Enterprise Principle. JENGbA will continue to pursue the need for this. However, a very quick trawl of the internet shows the following recent acquittals, how many more don't we know about? This is promising as it clearly shows how these trials are a waste of time, and they cost a vast amount of taxpayers' money.

The pain each defendant and their loved ones are forced to endure MUST be recognised and publicly debated. To be acquitted either by a jury or on appeal is no prize. For many, jobs and homes are lost, even loved ones, as in the case of Sam Hallam, and most definitely anyone involved will have their emotional stability and reputation damaged beyond repair. And what for? Why do the Police and Prosecutors feel it is right to do this to innocent people? Why do we still have no guidelines? Until something is done, more innocent lives will be thrown away as if they are of no value. Are you going to be the next victim in the Joint Enterprise lottery?

The list of people below are considered by JENGbA members as the lucky ones. They are lucky to have their freedom and liberty restored. Each and every innocent prisoner JENGbA supports dreams of having what they now have. They believe once they get the Justice they deserve life will continue as it did before. Sadly it will just be a new and equally painful battle, but it's a battle they deserve to have the freedom to win.

If some Prosecutors are now recognising the need to only take a case to court with strong evidence that is a good thing. But what about those cases in which laziness was the order of the day? JENGbA will always embrace a positive change and will encourage this until we have a justice system that is fair for everyone. We will continue to push for the recognition that past cases only gained convictions by using a confusing, lazy legal principle and stretching it beyond any reasonable person's definition of the law.

Ask yourself these simple questions.
Do you believe in such a thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time and then being given a life sentence on that basis?
Do you believe in being used as an example even though you have done nothing wrong?
Anyone who condones this nonsense should offer up their own freedom and liberty and not expect others, who are intelligent and moral enough not to believe in such a thing, to sacrifice their entire lives in order to support this belief.

Please read the articles below and try to engage in a mindset that you are one of the defendants and that you are INNOCENT. If you can do that you will notice how the media cannot or will not address the issue of WHY all these innocent people were subjected to the trauma of a trial, months or even years on remand and for those convicted years of imprisonment? The answer is very simple, the continued abuse of the Joint Enterprise principle.

It may also be of interest to know that a Senior Prison Officer in one of our heavily packed YOI's (under 21's) recently divulged that if it was not for the Joint Enterprise principle the prison in which he works would have half the prisoners it now has. This person understandably wants to remain anonymous, but this shocking revelation shows us that the people we support really are just the tip of the iceberg. It tells me that you and your loved ones are far more susceptible to being imprisoned as an innocent person than ever before. You better believe it, if it can happen to my family it can happen to yours.


Friday, 3 August 2012

Happy Birthday to Ray Gilbert

Ray Gilbert. Ray was
convicted to 20 years for joint enterprise 
murder and robbery. He has maintained his innocence 
throughout and is currently 15 years over his tarrif.
Everyone at JENGbA would like to wish Ray Gilbert a very Happy Birthday. Sadly Ray went to prison at the age of 22 and today he turns 54 years old. Ray is hugely over tariff and should have been released many years ago. Maybe he would have been if he had been a guilty man, but Ray has been maintaining his innocence all along and it seems this has gone against him.

I write to Ray and I have met Ray; and he certainly doesn't look like a 54 year old man, so at least that's a bonus. And more importantly he certainly does not come across as someone who would be a danger to the public. So with this in mind I wonder why they will not relaese this man who has given up the best years of his life. The young years, when he should have been settling down and having a family. If life had been fair to Ray Gilbert and Justice had really been done, Ray may have been a grandfather by now. Spending his birthday drinking a beer on a fine summer evening with the family he never had the opportunity to have. 

Instead he is on bang up in a tiny room waiting to watch the soaps on a portable TV. And as it's warm he will have to sweat it out, because unfortunately prison cells don't have a window that opens. And for those of you who may think that after all these years, Ray Gilbert may have built up a bond with the Prison Officers, think again. There will be no sneaking the old timer on C wing a bottle of icy beer to celebrate his birthday. I doubt he will even be thrown a birthday greeting. 
Ray should have progressed to a Catergory D prison by now, and there has been a long fight and campaign for this to happen and with some degree of success. The prison where he is located have had the paperwork to Cat D him since May, and therefore, you would think the powers do the right thing since May. And still this innocent man is forced to endure further torment, knowing the end is close, and also knowing he is not being allowed to have what so clearly is his right. Ray may never have the Justice he deserves in respect of clearing his name, and that will be a very sad thing indeed, but he must be released. So on this August evening our Birthday wish for Ray is that he is released sooner rather than later. so until that day, the bottle of icy beer will remain unopened, the BBQ unlit and the party left on hold.

Happy Birthday Ray Gilbert from your JENGbA Family.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

One of the lucky ones

Being a campaigner for JENGbA is the hardest job of my life. Harder than studying full time for a Masters whilst working part time and being a full time mum to two young lads. That, until now, was what I once considered to be the hardest and most satisfying time of my life. 
No one can teach you how to be part of a successful campaign, and if I am honest, if I was asked how I got to this point I would not have a clue how to answer that question. Learning something new daily and researching the law and past cases is very important. Being willing to listen to people you have never met before and having the ability to trust them implicitly. That's not an easy task either - not if you have a loved one who has been taken from you as a miscarriage of justice. When that happens your whole perception of the justice system, the Law and everything you believed to be right and wrong, moral and immoral goes out of the window. People tell you to go to the papers. I learned pretty quickly that that's not an option.

I think I'm one of the lucky ones. I say that because I refuse to believe the world is filled with bad, or with people who do not care or people who deliberately do the things they do to hurt others. Or that anyone with an ounce of decency would hide behind a legal principle still knowing it was immoral. I prefer to think folks are just too lazy, too greedy or just ignorant of the facts. (But as the saying goes, "Ignorance is no defence"). All of these human traits can be resolved. They can be changed through hard work and by our campaigning. True wickedness can never be changed.
Jan with Afie Meadows, a student who suffered head injuries during clashes with police at a tuition fees protest
The campaign is about Joint Enterprise and we campaign on behalf of, and with, those wrongfully convicted. We highlight such cases where Joint Enterprise Law has been applied and those convicted are stating they are not guilty of the index offence.
Joint Enterprise is a legal principle, it's not even a Law passed by Parliment. To me, the Law is just a human process, designed and implemented by humans. As with any human process, mistakes will happen and JENGbA is about taking that legal process and kicking it into the 21st Century. Kicking it into the European Court of Human Rights if needs be. It's not a law passed by Parliment or even one that has been seriously debated and that must always be remembered. Along with the human misery it is causing and how that far outweighs the money made by those who endorse it.

It has been difficult at times to work out a plan of action or even a strategy. The JENGbA campaign is a very controversial one. There are those who really do not want to know about the reality of what is actually happening in our courts, or who this is happening to. There are those who will listen but find it very difficult to believe this can be happening in modern Britain. And then there are people who instantly understand. 
As a campaigner I know its pointless preaching to the converted, it's a waste of my time. It's nice to communicate with like minded individuals who understand, and a real confidence boost when I've been having a difficult time. But I'm not here to be flattered - I'm here to teach, to inform, to educate and most importantly of all, to learn as much as I can and then make a difference. 

I have found that I can only be myself. And that is why, as I have already said, I am lucky. Lucky that I can be a person who can still talk openly and with honesty, and will still trust others to believe in what I say. Granted, I've never had to do anything like this before, but after all my family have been through, the pain, the endless humiliation and the frustration, I should be very damaged and angry to the extent that I am incoherant and even afraid. I have met people who are like that and it saddens me.

Jan, with Paddy Hill and Mo Riaz

My world was turned upside down and I knew life would never be the same again. It was a determination to help others that has driven me. The need to prevent this from happening to anyone else and a willingness to want to help my son and those who live as my son does (as a Miscarriage of Justice). I spoke out about Jordan as soon as I could, so that others would approach me. At first it was because I wanted help, but it became very clear that those who I am drawn towards are very similar to myself. They have been through a similar experience but are also more than willing to dedicate their time to others.

When people like that are fortunate enough to meet each other they draw courage from each other and utilise each others' strengths and weaknesses. JENGbA has a very solid team made up of a small number of people. This small number of people work every day, meeting people, organising events, researching, writing papers, important letters, delegating work to others who are desperate to help but sometimes limited in what they can do for various reasons. We are a tight team and one that could not have been manufactured. We just happened out of a powerful need and we have evolved.

I now realise what part I play; sometimes it changes but I know my strengths and weaknesses better than I have ever known.

I have also learned a lot about the others I work with. I'm nothing without them, they make me everything I am right now. I am proud of what I am trying to achieve even if I haven't yet reached the final goal. I am proud to say the strangers I met in a time of trauma and grief have empowered me and become my greatest friends.

I can wake up in the morning and sit at my computer until I go to bed at night. I will spend the day emailing and writing letters, and talking to grief stricken mothers who have lost their sons with tarrifs as long as 40 years. I meet families who have not yet gone through the court process and this is a recent thing. For quite some time now we have been saying we need to be contacted by people before they are convicted. That way we may be able to help them get the not guilty verdict they deserve.  Only now does it feel exciting, for want of a better word. Only now are we being given an opportunity to help people before they go to trial and have their lives ripped apart.
We are not lawyers and legal advice is not the only thing people need. They need to understand a legal principle that very few people have even heard of. They need to know what happened to us, the JENGbA Campaigners, and realise that we campaign because we want people to realise you cannot trust that there will be Justice through the Courts. We want people to recognise that they too are victims of another person's crime, and that they are not alone in all of this. I know there is no guarantee to save anyone, but I am very confident that if I knew what I know now during my son's trial, things would have been very different.

In 2008 to google Joint Enterprise would have left you finding nothing to do with this legal principle. It appears to have been a well kept and very nasty secret. Try it now - there is so much. Individuals whose lives have been torn apart but who still  have a desire to make a difference have done that. The JENGbA family opened a can of worms.
 Jan Cunliffe is a campaigner with JENGbA