Sunday, 30 December 2012

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

JENGbA Activities Update

Sometimes it’s good to get an insight into what goes on behind the scenes of a campaign like JENGbA

Here’s what’s been happening just over the past few months and this list isn’t exhaustive!
  • 20th November Canterbury Uni – Gloria gave talk to Law Students with June and Jesse Parsons who told the students about their son Anthony’s case. The students sent us emails afterwards, asking how they can help JENGbA and thanking us for attending.
  • Anglia Ruskin Uni 26th November 2012 JENGbA talk to Law students was met with disbelief and offers of help.
  • 6th December 2012 – Invitation to the Howard League Conference with DPP in attendance.
  • 13th December Sodiq Film – Gloria invited by Diane Abbott MP – Justice Select committee members also invited.
  • 15th December – Edge Fund Launch party, JENGbA’s input “Prisoners’ Voices”
  • 17th December – Attending Leveson Inquiry Discussion, Bindmans Solicitors invitation.
  • 25th January 2013 This is Not a Gateway Festival
  • After talks by Glo and other volunteer campaigners, we now have links with Birkbeck College, London Law School, NCVYS (National Council for Youth Services).
  • Letters and articles have been published in the Guardian, Socialist Review, Justice Gap.
  • Intelligent Submissions have been made in response to the DPP’s draft guidelines from major organisations all in support of JENGbA. Legal professionals are making themselves available with expertise of the law in support of the innocent.  
  • UniteResist Conference – Deb and Patricia attended and were given donations for stamps.
  • Presence at numerous Court hearings to support families, including Kevan Thakrar’s Judicial Review.
  • Gloria’s contribution to handbook for Community Justice, So We Stand campaign.
  • Awaiting response from requested meeting with Sadiq Khan, Shadow Justice Secretary.
  • Continually supporting new families and prisoners who contact us.
  • Represented at Criminal Cases Review Commission Stakeholders’ Conference on
  • Wednesday, November 28th.
  • Cardiff Uni – support by law students and Pro Bono Unit who have had an overwhelming response from prisoners who want their voices heard.
  • Support of MOJO Scotland – Paddy Hill described JENGbA as the biggest Miscarriage of Justice group in the UK today.
  • Getting the word out via Facebook, Blog, Twitter which are continuously updated.
  • 10th October 2012 - Janet Cunliffe presentation at Manchester Metropolitan University about Jordan Cunliffe, JENGbA and the plight of Kevan Thakrar.
  • Regular meetings with Jeremy Corbyn MP.
  • Attending Deaths in Custody marches.
  • JENGbA campaigner talking about joint enterprise in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall from July to October as part of the Cultural Olympiad in a piece by Tino Sehgal.
  • Generally there is a huge gathering of media interest/attention with major stories pending (Guardian Weekend and a Guardian online film, Private Eye, not to mention the documentary film maker, Anton Califano who is following Janet with a major film producer, who is a trustee for the Sheffield film festival. Another well known filmmaker in London has approached Glo for a JENGbA documentary.
  • Anthony Davis was a main feature on a recent Panorama documentary, exposing the issue of the Supergrass - a follow up to the original expose that allowed Janet Cunliffe and Gloria Morrison to put Joint Enterprise in the public arena.
    The Bradford awareness seminar brought families together on a HUGE scale like never before in one community with a positive local media reaction, covering more than one case all supported by JENGbA.
  • George Galloway MP has asked for more details of the campaign and we believe with more work others will follow suit.
  • There are book deals in the pipeline and Channel 4 News have asked for intimate honest stories.
  • And of course our Patron, Jimmy McGovern after interviewing many of our families, has had his script accepted by the BBC with a film to be shown later next year. We all know that Jimmy’s previous projects and films have included Bloody Sunday and Hillsborough, so we have great faith that his next film will expose the injustice of Joint Enterprise and provoke the same public outrage and path to justice for our wrongfully convicted loved ones.
And all done from our campaigners’ kitchen tables - phew!

Jan's Blog: The harsh truth about Joint Enterprise

I am writing this blog in the hopes that someone will read it and learn something that I was not able to learn in time to help my own son Jordan Cunliffe. Joint Enterprise is a confusing legal principle and without the proper information prior to trial a defendant can find themselves running the wrong defence and then sadly being convicted for a very serious offence they did not commit.

As a Defendant it is up to you to instruct your legal team. It is no good just pleading not guilty to the index offence and proving you were not the perpetrator of a crime. This is not what Joint Enterprise is about. It is not about proving there was no common plan or organisation involved, because people are convicted because of a Prosecutor’s insistence that you had or should have had possible foresight that a crime might be committed. A ludicrous notion especially when talking about a murder trial, and a murder you took no part in, or one you can prove that you had no physical involvement with let alone a plan or verbal agreement. Or in my son’s case no way of even seeing, as he was blind on the night a spontaneous outburst of violence occurred that sadly resulted in a man’s death. They wanted him to prove disengagement from the scene of the crime, but no one explained to the Jury that it is pointless for a blind child to attempt to prove disengagement from a scene that he was not able to engage in because he was not able to see it in the first place.

So what am I trying to tell you? Well I am trying to tell you to forget about logic or all your ideals that a person is innocent until proven guilty or that our "Great British Justice System" would rather 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man be convicted of a crime he did not commit. That is long gone, and our Judges and Prosecutors these days sadly not only believe in the complete opposite, they strive to make that opposite a reality.

A reality that has already destroyed hundreds, if not thousands of innocent lives. Men, women and even children. Not gang members or those involved with organised crime, like armed robbers, drug dealers or gangland killers. The media have and will continue to feed you a false narrative that this in fact is why Joint Enterprise is being used in our Courts today. Maybe this was the origin for its reintroduction and for very good reasons, but of course only if used correctly even in these types of cases, then it may have merit.

Jan campaigning for her son Jordan
But somewhere along the line its easy application and swift non evidential criteria has meant the bar to conviction has been lowered to such murky depths that convictions are now being gained on mere presence alone or through possible foresight that a crime MAY occur. All too often this happens in cases where a spontaneous fight breaks out, no weapon is used and the victim is the original instigator of the aggression.

And because of this dangerously low level of evidence that places a person securely on the route to conviction, it is now more convenient for the Police to charge more than one person for any crime using flimsy evidence, than to gather real, solid concrete evidence and prove exactly who committed that crime, why and how. Imagine how a victim’s family must feel if they knew not only do the Police not care one iota about bringing the person who ruined their lives to justice, but that the Courts care nothing for them either. You will hear MP's bleating on about putting "victims at the heart of the Criminal Justice System", talk is all it is, because all victims really want are answers, the truth, reasons and justice, not appeasement or revenge at all cost, but sadly this is all they are being offered.

Imagine the utter devastation to the family of the innocent person locked away for life, not just a cushy few years, but LIFE. The frustration, the anger, the daily anguish must be worse than any other form of human torture. That could be you and all because you trusted a system that can no longer be relied upon to serve Justice even to the victims, let alone to the public or to the innocent bystander. 

As a society we developed a justice system that was meant to be fair and just, because without it Britain would have remained lawless, with innocent people being blamed and persecuted for crimes they took no part in. Joint Enterprise and the way it is now being applied means Britain may as well be lawless once again, because innocent people are being blamed and persecuted for crimes they took no part in.

Any legal Professional, MP or so called "expert" who claims this law is necessary and condones its use in its current form has NO understanding of the law or why we have laws in the first place, and because of this they should not be allowed to teach, inform or make decisions about the law that will affect the rest of us with such devastating consequences.

If I had known in 2007 all of the things I know now, things that I had to find out for myself, my blind 15 year old son would never have been convicted of a murder he so obviously did not commit. I would still, as I did back then, insist on him telling the "Truth, the Whole truth and nothing but the Truth." But I would have understood that the truth alone was not nearly enough to save him. I would have realised that you have to remove yourself from the "route to conviction" that is cleverly placed upon you before you even go to trial. A route to conviction that conveniently no one tells you about, in which hearsay, speculation, possible foresight, meaningless one-sided text messages, and flimsy evidence from unreliable witnesses that you may have been, what could be considered by some people, of bad character at some point in your past. Not a criminal or police record, but someone giving personal evidence that they do not like you. This route to verdict is then passed to the jury in a bundle of papers like a multiple choice for them to use when deliberating their verdict. Taking away the jury’s autonomy and forcing them to reach a verdict they may not have done otherwise. 

Please if you value your freedom and liberty or that of someone you love, contact JENGbA. None of us are legal professionals so we cannot offer legal advice but we can make you aware of what it was that allowed our innocent loved ones to be convicted of a crime they did not commit. We can show you just how easy it can be for a Prosecutor to gain a conviction on very flimsy, if not no real evidence at all. It will alarm you, I can guarantee that, and if it doesn't we are not doing our jobs properly.

To ignore this issue means you are allowing it to become even worse than it already is, it WILL touch your life at some point because there is no guidance or control in place. Someone who has not murdered anyone should never go to prison for murder. And anyone who believes it is acceptable for innocent people to be used as example to deter others from crime should offer their own sons lives as lambs to the slaughter, not expect me to hand over mine. 

Janet Cunliffe
4th December 2012

Monday, 3 December 2012

Blog For Lizzie Don

Yesterday, Deb Madden and myself, Gloria Morrison were privileged to meet Lizzie Donaghue in HMP Send. We went as representatives of JENGbA, it was important to meet her. It was an emotional meeting and her mum Marion was there also, but I’ve been corresponding with Lizzie for some time now and she has become an integral part of JENGbA’s understanding of the flaws and framework which allows miscarriages of justice to happen.

Before JENGbA was formed in 2010, London Against Injustice (LAI) was the group where Marion found us, looking for support and help for her daughter Lizzie who had been convicted of her husband’s murder via conspiracy and was given a 30 year sentence.  Marion was in her late sixties at the time of her daughter’s conviction, and traumatised by what had happened to her family, but so certain of her daughter’s innocence she simply could not understand how she had been so let down by the Justice system.
Marion Donaghue & Gerry Conlon at TUC Conference
I have visited many men and women in prison since we started our campaign and once again I wonder what prisons are actually for.  I see these women with children, and when reunited with them seem so loving and desperately close.  

A little boy arrived with his sister and his Grandmother, and in the car park he was crying desperately trying to push her out of the visitors’ centre, yet once he saw his mum he ran into her arms screaming with delight. When it was time to leave he was clinging to his young mum so hard it took all his grandma’s strength to prise him away from her.  In the toilets his little sister was crying uncontrollably. But it is not just traumatised children that make me wonder this, does it really make sense to lock a human being into a system that is constantly being proven does not work, at a cost to the tax payer of a minimum of £50,000 a year?

Lizzie has 3 children, who were teenagers when she went to prison 8 years ago.  She is now a grandmother of 3 and one of the most beautiful and brave women I have met in a long time. She has set up ICE (Innocent Connection Enterprise) herself with the help of Inside Time. The idea is that prisoners maintaining innocence can find other prisoners inside to communicate with via letters.  This will be contentious.  The prison system does not want to accept there are innocent people in prison.  JENGbA knows this as we asked several prison governors could we have representatives on the wing to signpost the campaign to other prisoners convicted under JE.  The responses were the same.  We do not recognise your business? Simples we are not a business –we are a force for justice.

Lizzie is another excellent example of why JENGbA exists.  Her mother knew something was profoundly wrong about her conviction, and as she told her story we recognised the same path used by police and CPS to get an innocent person convicted. The ‘framing’  of how a crime happened in court, though it bears no reality to what actually happened in reality and with all the  weight of the Crown against you, you become a mere statistic and perhaps another round in the pub for our brave prosecuters who have ‘won’.

Then once convicted all the resources to keep you in prison are weighted against you. But this mother, grandma and great grandmother, Marion’s conviction and determination to fight for her daughter’s freedom mirrors every mother, father and child in JENGbA. That cannot be bottled, quantified or changed – we will succeed because love means we have no choice.

Anyone who watched ‘I’m a celebrity get me outta here’ and saw how Charlie’s daughter gripped on to her after 3 weeks separation should go into prison and see all the children whose lives are being destroyed by the prison system. Innocent people whose freedom, liberty and choices have been taken away from them. In fact JENGbA has over 350 prisoners now that we are supporting. Many of them fathers and women with children, heartbreakingly many are children themselves, serving life sentences.  If the public and MPs genuinely want to see and learn about prison conditions and wrongful convictions why don’t they visit our inside campaigners.  Not as a politician but as human beings who will easily recognise we have one of the most disgraceful prison systems in Europe. 

Our prisons are business and the people in there nothing more than cattle.  It is a disgrace that must be exposed as long as it costs so much money to get people into a system that enables others to profit from human misery.