Saturday, 5 October 2013

Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association By Gloria Morrison

Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association

By Gloria Morrison

03rd Oct 2013
Last summer I was interviewed for the SMK London Social Justice Award which I was unexpectedly shortlisted for. I didn’t know what to expect but it was certainly an intensive interview and when I came out I phoned another JENGbA campaigner and told her that we wouldn’t have won it.  This is not necessarily because I am modest, it is because of the nature of our grassroots campaign. Criminal Justice and miscarriages of justice are something I believe has, for various reasons, been pushed to the wayside.  It may have taken the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4 nearly two decades to get justice but they got it.  Look at the Hillsborough Campaign nearly 25 years on and they  are still fighting for justice for the 96 killed and covered up by the authorities.  I just presumed our campaign was too political to be recognised as important.  How wrong I was and how proud I was to receive the Award sponsored by Trust for London last month at the SMK awards ceremony.
This is a really important achievement for a campaign like JENGbA’s. When we launched the campaign Lord Ouseley was alerted to the abuse of Joint Enterprise and he was very concerned about how it would target Afro-Caribbean youths in the capital.  He put the question to the House of Lords asking for data on numbers of people being charged using Joint Enterprise.  Lord McNally (Minister of State) responded that Joint Enterprise was a useful tool in tackling crimes committed by gangs and that a small minority of gang member families were unhappy about their sentences.  The SMK Award is further vindication that I and JENGbA are not ‘gang member families’.  We are ordinary members of the public who cannot stand by and let innocent people go to prison, serving life sentences for something they were not responsible for.  JENGbA asked Chris Grayling to respond himself to the a letter in which we asked how, in the instance of a spontaneous act of violence, that had no formal plan or shared intent, could a large group all be convicted.  His response, which he did indeed reply himself, said that we must be aware that a plan is not necessary, ‘a knowing look’ would be enough to convict. We have asked the 400 plus prisoners we are now supporting whether the judge used the ‘nod or a wink’ or ‘knowing look’ in their trial.  Not surprisingly a large number have written to us and said it was.
We simply cannot allow a justice system to allow such spurious and untenable evidence that can send someone to prison for 30 years. One of the questions I was also asked in the SMK interview was who was the campaigner I most admired. I wasn’t sure but answered I would hope anyone like me.  I did not mean that arrogantly – what I meant was anyone who hears about Joint Enterprise or any other miscarriage of justice and decides to do something about it.  I would hope that everyone subscribed to the SMK newsletter reading this is that person, and will join our campaign, sign our petition and not allow the British Justice System to continue to sleepwalk into the same tactics that were used in Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa.
Gloria Morrison Campaign Co-ordinator JENGbA