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used by the former white minority regime against activists fighting for racial equality in South Africa."This is a very outdated and infamous doctrine," he said.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