Friday, 19 September 2014

Joint Enterprise: No Justice Just Victims

The Justice Select Committee follow up inquiry into Joint Enterprise gathered welcomed media attention with some of it focused on my contribution to the inquiry.
I noticed how an unconnected victim’s family member was placed alongside me in one feature, somehow suggesting we are fighting against each other. I was left feeling slightly uncomfortable with this and it had me thinking that the driving message was that only one of us was right, and like a tacky game show the audience must decide. When I started to think about it in that way it leapt from uncomfortable to offensive, then down right disrespectful.
No one in my family has ever murdered another human being and that is to the best of my knowledge. My son has been convicted of murder, not because he murdered someone, but because Joint Enterprise allows this to happen. Those with a clear understanding of how JE works will find this easy to understand and will no doubt sympathise, and those who have yet to be educated will be shocked once they are made fully aware.
Every time I say or do something I am mindful that there are mothers and fathers who have lost someone to a blade, a bullet, a kick or a punch. My son didn’t stab, shoot, kick or punch anyone. I am not campaigning because I am unhappy with the length of his sentence or saying he was involved in some way but doesn’t deserve to be called a murderer. I am saying my son is wholly innocent, that he had no involvement what so ever in the death of the victim, he played no part, had no argument and wasn’t even a witness to it unfolding.
I speak out so often because I want everyone to know and understand just how perverse the law of Joint Enterprise is. I want everyone to see my son’s case as one that is so clearly unjust that it is my boy’s name that springs to mind when they hear the phrase Joint Enterprise.
I have no challenge with the bereaved; I have only sympathy that they are forced to relive their grief through the media. I have never been party to how the media hook a story, and if I did I certainly would not ask it to be one shown as "a battle between us and them". There is no us and them, there is only injustice. The challenge is between those who apply the law incorrectly, and those who are serving unimaginable torture through a life sentence for a crime they did not commit, it always has been.
It is those who apply the law that have let both sides down. They are the ones who have created the miscarriages of justice, the never ending turmoil for the bereaved, and yet they hide behind senseless quotes, taking no responsibility and expecting two sets of victims to battle it out amongst themselves. Their media silence speaks volumes.
I have learned to cope with adverse commentary; it cannot get much worse than it already has been. As support grows so does my hope, and some victims’ families no doubt feel fear. My intention is not to hurt the bereaved, and if I ever have in any way I cannot apologise enough.
Those speaking out for the bereaved have said countless times, that I can see, speak to and hold my son, (not nearly as much as I would like to or in situations that are normal), and they cannot. I already know that, I don't need reminding. What I cannot get my head around, even all these years in to my son’s wrongful conviction, is why is my boy supposed to feel lucky he is alive, and that my family ought to take comfort from that, even though he did not murder anyone. It is as if somehow his sacrifice somehow makes the suffering for the bereaved more palatable for the rest of us. Why does someone who is clearly innocent have to suffer in order to make it better for the grief stricken, including those not connected to your own case?  It is nonsense and the very idea makes me think of some weird ancient ritual where the creation of new victims is brought about by men in cloaks and strange headwear, somehow giving power to the dead so they may rest in peace, and the new living victim must take this sacrifice with honour.
I may sound old fashioned, but I don’t believe in collateral damage, wrong place wrong time, lambs to the slaughter or sacrificing five to appease one. I believe in natural justice applied by honest Prosecutors who are satisfied they have an extremely high standard of evidence to prove you have committed the actual crime you have been charged with.  I no longer believe in "the realistic prospect of a conviction" scenario, I say that because Prosecutors are wilfully using a lousy, confusing, abusive common law doctrine weighted 99% in the prosecution’s favour, with no allowances for an honest jury to base the verdict on real solid evidence.
Joint Enterprise is about lies and the first set of people who are lied to in this entire system are the bereaved. The very people who are supposed to be at the heart of the criminal justice system. They are lied to, manipulated and used to create a fresh set of victims. And now as this abuse of trust comes to light they are made to feel as if it is their battle to quash our voices. That they must speak out and challenge those of us involved in seeking justice and bring us into disrepute.
Like I said my challenge is not with the bereaved, it is with those who apply the law. My challenge is with those who made the decision to charge Jordan Cunliffe with murder in 2007, those who chose to use Joint Enterprise to convict him, in the full knowledge this was not a gang attack, in the full knowledge of who inflicted the single killer blow and most disturbingly of all knowing that my 15 year old son was blind. And once the conviction they so desperately craved was found he was allowed to be named and vilified by the press. Not many people are aware of this, but a gagging order was enforced to prevent the public from ever knowing Jordan was blind. Like I have said Joint Enterprise is about lies, and the first set of people who are lied to in this entire system are the bereaved…..then the public, and last lie goes to the person charged.
I would like to be given the opportunity to ask those people who chose out of all those at the scene of the crime in my son’s case, to prosecute my vulnerable son knowing that Joint Enterprise (coupled with inexperience, disability and a media onslaught we could not counteract due to his age) held a more realistic prospect of conviction than it ever could with the others or another law.
"If there is honour in sacrifice, are the seven years’ unblemished prison record of an innocent blind child not enough sacrifice?”
I would like to be able to sit with them and tell them that if there is honour in sacrifice, then it doesn’t feel like an honour, it actually feels like a terrible burden. Cowards hide and right now the cowards are hiding behind people who are bereaved, people who themselves are victims.
Janet Cunliffe

Janet with her son Jordan