Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Intriguing, Frustrating World of being a Campaigner for JENGbA

I had a call last week from my Ken, and he told me something really interesting.  He had not called in a while so I had been worried that he was very down; he has served ten years for joint enterprise murder and though coping well in the prison system I know he just wants to come home, like all the JE inside campaigners. JENGbA’s Birmingham co-ordinator Tim Caines (an innocent man who served 16 years joint enterprise murder “with an unknown” as the victim was killed by a white man and Tim is black) told me that after several years in prison no matter how much you fight your wrongful conviction there comes a point when, for mental self-preservation, you just have to get on with it.

Ken told me his HMP have educational days for students of criminology and law from Universities where they are brought into the prison wings.  However the students do not know what position people hold within the jail.  Ken is extremely bright and also in his words ‘very regimented’ and so he often plays the role of a prison officer.  After 2 hours of showing the students the prison conditions and life behind cells they then reveal who they really are.  Ken told me that all the students couldn’t believe he was a Prisoner, worse than that, a convicted murderer.  Many are visibly moved and one woman wanted to hug him but he is not allowed a hug.   When he goes on to explain his conviction and joint enterprise he says that none of them, even though they may be going into a legal profession have heard about the doctrine and how it is currently being used.

The next day I received a call from a lovely grandma, Kathleen Baptiste who I have not met but have spoken to many times.  She and her niece are the only family supporting her grandson Sebastian, and because she is waiting for an operation she is too poorly to travel to HMP Gartree to visit and she was very worried because she said he is feeling very low.  Sebastian like Ken was a young black Londoner who is in a prison in the north of England, so much for keeping families connected to help rehabilitation. I have said we will visit in the New Year.

The aunty of Jamal Parchment who called the day after asking if we could visit her nephew in Ashworth.  Jamal sent us his artwork years ago and it is wonderful, but the toils of being a beautiful artist and being innocently convicted have given him mental health challenges.  I promised her that we would visit him but it is another maze of the prison system to get into a High Security Hospital.  But and this is the beautiful bit, when Jamal was refused permission by the hospital for us  to visit – he complained, first to his social worker who said we weren’t family (In Ashworth you have to be a family member or a supporting organisation)  he complained to his doctor who agreed we should be able to visit.  His aunt said it’s the first time in years she has seen him fight about his situation and so she was grateful that because of JENGbA he was not giving up.

And then the heart breaking news a few weeks ago that Blue Williams mum, Tara had killed herself because she couldn’t cope with her only son’s wrongful conviction.  His grandma Sue contacted us and asked that we attend in our JENGbA tops.  There was only a few of the JENGbA campaigners able to make it but a photo journalist had been to our meetings as she is so perplexed by joint enterprise – she asked could she come to the funeral and Sue readily agreed.  The funeral was one of the most moving I have ever attended. Blue was brought in handcuffed to a PO who, to be fair, was as respectful  as he could be in such awful circumstances. Sue said that Tara just felt let down every avenue she turned to in her fight for justice for her son.  She had given one lawyer a huge amount of money only for him to go bankrupt shortly after.  Depression is a terrible illness and one that affects many of the Inside and Outside JENGbA Campaigners which is why we must support each other – this is what Sue wants to do.  She said Tara wanted to fight by herself but kept hitting obstacles, she is now going to take up that fight alongside JENGbA and Blue is grateful, which is why they both agreed to the photojournalist being there.  The public need to see man’s inhumanity to man when a young man has to be shackled to attend his mum’s funeral.

A couple of days before Xmas, Roberto Parchment’s mum came to my flat to upload a song she had made for all the JENGbA supporters on to You Tube.  Neither of us knew anything about this technical feat so we needed IT support (my teenage son Dan) to do it for us.  The song “I raised my praise” is really moving, please give it a listen.

So our JENGbA family needs to keep growing in strength and commitment and let us all put shed loads of love out there to the brave and vulnerable ones fighting for their freedom.

And that is my message for the New Year – we fight out here together so Blue, Ken, Sebastian and Jamal and all our other Inside Campaigners do not ever think they are alone or that their HOPE for justice was ever in vain.
In solidarity

Gloria Morrison  JENGbA Campaign Co-ordinator

Monday, 14 December 2015

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Reflections on Joint Enterprise, UKSC, and Human Rights Day

As today is Human Rights Day, what better time to put out the latest blog from JENGbA. It is also a good time to remind all of our supporters and those interested in our campaign that this summer JENGbA was shortlisted for a Liberty Human Rights award.   

Much of the recent dialogue surrounding the abuse of the Joint Enterprise doctrine has come about because of the JENGbA family. The public are becoming very much aware of this legal principle and who it affects. This is not because of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the Government, or the Police, but because innocent victims abused by this ruthless common law finally have the courage to speak out. So to be shortlisted for a Liberty Human Rights award was fantastic recognition for each and everyone of us who are fighting the daily battle for justice.   

The media can dress up Joint Enterprise as much as they like, but nothing will make a person who did not murder anyone a murderer. Nothing a judge writes in his sentencing report will ever justify convicting someone who did not murder anyone to a life sentence for murder. 

You can imagine how encouraging it was to see the media interest in one of our joint enterprise cases at the Supreme Court in October and how balanced and responsible these articles were. That didn’t happen on its own either. Many families informed their local media and JENGbA put out a national press release. Journalists are not lawyers, they just like a good story for their audience. Crime, punishment and the struggle of injustice have always been fascinating subjects to the British public and I don’t think there is another campaign in this country better placed than JENGbA to talk about all three. 

I tell anyone who will listen that Joint enterprise is a human rights abuse and not difficult to understand, it’s quite simple; as I have already said people who have not murdered anyone are NOT murderers. People who have not drawn up a plan to go out and murder someone are NOT murderers. A spontaneous act of street violence cannot be likened to a planned armed bank robbery where someone is shot dead. A 200 year old cart race gone wrong or poaching in the 17th Century will never make our modern day convictions plausible. I explain that understanding the errors of the past can point to how we reached the dreadful position we are in today. But I also explain its time to stop lingering on a past that is now irrelevant to today’s society. There are men, women and even children serving life sentences for crimes they did not commit, so let’s not ponder too long. 

Derek Bentley and Philip English spring to my mind as being more relevant to today’s society yet it seems they have conveniently been forgotten by prosecutors over the last two decades. Both were convicted of joint enterprise murder in the full knowledge of who the perpetrator was, both after many years were eventually acquitted, unfortunately nineteen year old Bentley was hung so it was too late for him. When I think about these cases and I think about how today’s Prosecutors will still stop at nothing to gain a conviction, I want to grab hold of them and shake some sense in to their arrogant heads; I want to tell them they can take yesterday’s left over cottage pie and cover it in as much jam and cream as they like, but it will NEVER be a cake. 

If you look at the prosecution guidance compiled by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in 2012 you can see this sugar coating clearly exists. At no point in these guidelines is the need for solid evidence to back up a Prosecution argument encouraged. There is no emphasis for less speculation of possible foresight and opinion to what that foresight may be. Nor is there emphasis to place more weight on the need to raise the evidential bar or robust examination of ALL witness statements. The prosecution guidelines should be titled ‘How to gain a conviction with little or no evidence.’ For me lack of evidence means a very strong possibility of innocence as JENGbA have been arguing it means you are deemed guilty and have to prove innocence. 

I have lost track of how many people I have spoken to that have been convicted of joint enterprise murder and their families, not one of them has informed me that during their trial were they asked if they had a ‘tacit agreement’ or ‘possible foresight that death or serious harm would occur’, let alone what this actually means. Yet the jury have what this means explained to them in great detail (along with all the other legal jargon that is simple inaccessible to ordinary families), they are then asked, via the route to verdict, to deliver a verdict based on the assumption of some form of agreement – this is the foresight element. Seeing as you were never allowed to tackle these issues head on during your defence, your jury can only assume you did have a tacit agreement or possible foresight otherwise you would have spoken out when given the opportunity. This is why joint enterprise is a Prosecutor’s dream and a waking nightmare for the rest of us. 

The CPS role at the Supreme Court also supports my opinions, because the role they played out to five of our most senior judges in the country was one of explaining what can only be described as the many ways of designing a conviction to suit a crime. They talked for hours on end about tacit agreements and possible foresight. We have heard it all before but disguised in different wording, the so called winks and nods, the knowing looks and nonverbal psychic agreements that occur in the spur of the moment. They appeared to be discussing just how far they could stretch the joint enterprise doctrine to convict whoever they choose, and in the most ludicrous way. In my humble opinion proving just how they have fine-tuned the joint enterprise doctrine to such a frightening degree that Prosecutors can now gain a conviction even when no crime has been committed by the individual in question. 

This should strike terror in the hearts of everyone.

Jan Wilson, JENGbA

Friday, 4 December 2015

R. v Jogee in the Supreme Court 27th October – 29th October 2015

R. v Jogee in the Supreme Court 27th October – 29th October 2015

Earlier this year in March I received a phone call from the brilliant Human Rights Solicitor Simon Natas who has been helping JENGbA from our early days, pro bono.  He is an overworked and most of the time pretty exhausted solicitor but in this call he was positively giddy!  He had just found out that the Supreme Court were looking at a case which was based on joint enterprise, something so important that he told us JENGbA should request that we ‘intervene’ as an interested party.  Somewhere along the line of campaigning someone in the press described me as a solicitor and I need to clarify I have no legal qualifications whatsoever except what I have learnt in the course of JENGbA’s journey for justice. So hearing the word intervention meant diddly to me and as ever Simon patiently explained its importance so I could go on to explain it to the rest of the campaigners.  What he urged was that we find out what the question posed by the appellant’s QC Felicity Gerry was to the Supreme Court.  We found the question, it was as follows:
Certified that a point of law of general public importance was involved in the decision to dismiss that appeal against conviction namely:-
“(i) In a case such as this where ‘encouragement’ to joint enterprise is concerned, a jury should be directed not to convict unless they are sure that the defendant knew there was a weapon or use of a fatal weapon was a ‘real probability’.  The language of risk and possibility disregards the standard of proof.  (In this case, the direction should have been ‘realised Hirsi would’ use a weapon not ‘realised Hirsi might’.)
(ii) The current state of the law on joint enterprise over-criminalises secondary parties. 

The second part of question was exactly what JENGbA have been shouting from the roof tops for five years now; though some of the prisoners we are supporting are not even secondary parties as they played no role whatsoever!  And so Simon, along with Doughty Street’s QC Tim Maloney and barrister Jude Bunting clarified why JENGbA were in such a strong position to intervene, meaning that our evidence would be beneficial to the help the Supreme Court Judges decide the outcome of the case. This request alone cost the campaign £800 (helped by a grant from Trust for London) but once we were granted permission we knew it was too important a development to expect the lawyers to work pro bono.   Jon Robbins of The Justice Gap was writing an article around collective punishment and contacted us, during that conversation he mentioned that he had interviewed a woman called Julia Salasky who had set up a recent crowd funding site called CrowdJustice.  After two meetings with Julia, JENGbA had a site to crowd fund £10,000 for the Intervention, she did everything, she was and is amazing and without her input and guidance we would never have reached our target, which we did with a week to spare (the money must be raised in 4 weeks otherwise all the pledges are returned) and it was put directly into a JENGbA client account with ITN solicitors.

And so the build up to the hearing was one of tense anticipation.  Could this really be the breakthrough we have grafted so long and hard for to get justice for our loved ones?  Simon warned us not to get our hopes up as the floodgates won’t magically open but our campaign is solely one of hope so as expected lots of our families came from around the country to support Rachel, Ameen Jogee’s mum and listen to the proceedings.  We had learnt the Privy Council had attached a second joint enterprise case on to Jogee’s from Jamaica R. v Ruddock.

One of the things I love about JENGbA campaigners is that they like me had no legal background before they got involved in our campaign but we can all understand nuanced areas of law that lawyers constantly described as complicated.  Our twitter feed was in overdrive! Here are some examples:
“The Crown in Ruddock’s case argued contemplation of a crime coupled with continued presence at the scene amounts to tacit authorisation.”
“Parasitic accessorily liability has been over stretched and now come off the rails so that it is on a monorail” Felicity Gerry.
“This court must rule if the common law principle based on the Wing Su Chan need reform. Crown argued that test for JE is robust even if there is a complete lack of mens rea.” Felicity  Gerry
Lady Hale “one person’s common sense could be another’s hopeless idiocy.”  When informed by the CPS that the jury are also minded to use their common sense.
“Judges asked how the test worked in spontaneous cases so the Crown argued that the foresight element was sufficient if the Crime A lead to Crime B.”
“Long discussion on poaching. Presence at Scene is encouragement”
“Privy Council for Ruddick – Jamaica has death penalty and some would say that in ‘some’ cases the mandatory Life sentence is harsh.”
“Took CPS a full day to explain it to 5 senior judges – how are juries going to understand it.”

One of our campaigners attending wrote this in a letter to the guys in prison he is supporting and sent it to us.  It is so apt it has to be included in this blog.
"On Wednesday I attended the Supreme Court to observe the handling of the cases enclosed with this letter. Talk about arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin! The whole proceedings consisted of the lawyers discussing the minutiae of terms and assumptions about intent. Terms such as ‘parasitic accessory liability’, ‘shared objective’, ‘presumed intention’ (understood without intention), ‘common purpose relying on agreement, tacit or otherwise’, ‘intention to assist’, ‘reluctant agreement’, ‘likelihood to commit’, ‘contemplation of the commission of the crime’, ‘contemplation or foresight of the crime’, and then there were the discussions of the distinctions between ‘common purpose and common intention’, ‘joint venture and joint enterprise’, joint plan and joint intent’,  and the CPS use of the terms ‘possibility’ and ‘inference could be drawn’ really made a joke of the trial. The most useful phrase used by the defence appeared to me to be ‘criminal liability lies in participation’. Through the whole session, I wanted to stand up and shout, “For god’s sake, skip the jargon and cut through to the unfairness of the law on joint enterprise and deal with the stupidity of convicting people who did not commit the crime!”  Lee Pascal

Lee nailed it, a lot of jargon that presumes that ordinary people can’t understand they are talking rubbish about an outdated doctrine that they spend nearly half a day saving was relevant via principles involved in poaching! How is poaching relevant to the 21st Century. A 17 year old lad who attended whose mum is in prison serving life, said he could follow the proceedings even though the arguments didn’t make much sense!  It has taken a while to write this blog because as always we JENGbA volunteers are inundated with emails, new cases, requests to do talks at Universities and other functions, such as the Being A Man Festival at the Southbank recently, but also it is such an important development for the campaign that we are all terrified the Judges will say it is a matter for Parliament.  Considering they are the most brilliant legal minds in the country we can’t see how a load of punitive MP’s who always want to be seen as ‘tough’ on crime can solve this mess.  We have written to Michael Gove to ask what he intends to do regarding the Justice Select Committee last report recommending ‘urgent reform’ he has replied that MOJ are looking into it.  They are waiting to see what the Supreme Court do is what they are looking into.  If the CPS are allowed to continue charging innocent bystanders or people not even at the scene they have not only lost their moral compass they are smearing the image of the UK Justice System being one of the finest in the world to one that is worse than North Korea. But as I said JENGbA’s campaign is one of hope and we truly hope the Judges recognise joint enterprise is not fit for purpose in the 21st Century when a simple phone call can give someone a life sentence.

Gloria Morrison

Click HERE to see JENGbA's intervention submitted to the UK Supreme Court

Monday, 16 November 2015

Sleaford Mods and Invisible Britain [Source: LSD Magazine]

Sleaford Mods and Invisible Britain

November 2015 sees the release of Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain in Cinemas around the UK. A documentary which follows the Nottingham band on a tour of some of the neglected areas of the UK in the run up to the 2015 General Election.  LSD caught up with the one of the Directors; Paul Sng and Producer; Andrew Tiernan to discuss the film and the state of Austerity Britain.

Unless you’ve had your head up your arse for the past year, you won’t have missed Sleaford Mods’ rapid onslaught on the music industry.  In June, their set at Glastonbury Festival was televised by the BBC and brought them into living rooms en masse across the country, while their appearance at Banksy’s Dismaland in September saw them playing to a more familiar alternative crowd.  Last month their no-nonsense performance on Later… With Jools Holland was one of those seminal TV moments, a rallying cry to the faithful, a wake up call for the un-initiated and a two-fingered salute to the naysayers (many of whom took to Twitter to voice their contempt).

Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain is similarly direct in its approach.  Part band doc, part state of the nation, it avoids the usual tour documentary clichés and instead focuses on what the individuals and communities in the towns and cities which the band visited are doing to resist and campaign against social injustice and so-called austerity measures.  Among the subjects explored in the film are the fatal consequences of the controversial Atos Assessments, the rise in Homelessness, the decline of British Industry, and the draconian Joint Enterprise doctrine, which has been used by the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service to target the lower classes and ethnic minority communities.

The project was directed and conceived by Paul Sng and Nathan Hannawin, who accompanied Sleaford Mods on tour for a few weeks in February and March.  The project caught the attention of actor/director Andrew Tiernan, who contacted the filmmakers to help fund the project as Executive Producer, and who also acts as the film’s narrator.  

Sleaford Mods_Invisible Britain-7
How did the film come about?
Paul Sng: We met Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn of the band in October 2014 and interviewed them for a music website called Gigslutz.   Andrew Fearn mentioned at that time that they would be doing a tour of small towns and places that most signed bands don’t usually go to, places like Scunthorpe, Wakefield and Colchester.  I thought that it would be a good basis for a documentary to follow them on tour and take a look at what was happening in these communities, the problems that they’re facing and what they’re doing to resist austerity.

Where did the name ‘Invisible Britain’ come from?
Paul Sng:  It’s a reference to the neglected and supposedly less attractive areas of the UK, which aren’t shown on TV and that many people aren’t aware of.  It also refers to the disenfranchised and those who don’t have a voice in modern society, or people who have become the scapegoats and victims of ‘Broken Britain’.  Those who’ve suffered from what are euphemistically termed austerity measures.  People like Mark Wood, who had a number of complex mental health issues and starved to death four months after his disability benefits were cut, following an Atos test that judged him fit for work.  We interviewed Mark’s sister, Cathie Wood, for the film, and the details of how her brother was treated by the DWP are shocking.

Andrew, how did you get involved in the film?
Andrew Tiernan:  I’d just finished working on the post-production for my feature film, Dragonfly, which I’d directed and kind of felt that I hadn’t said everything that I wanted to say within that piece.  It was hard within the confines of a drama.  I’d been looking for something to do, which had a political content to it.  I’d been listening to a lot of Sleaford Mods, who I felt were my secret band, no one else I knew even liked them at the time.  Luckily, I saw a tweet that the band had put out about the crowdfunding campaign for the documentary.  When I realised that the film-makers needed a producer, I emailed them straight away.

Paul Sng: Andrew has been brilliant and has helped us with advice and introduced us to people like Shaun Dey from Reel News, who was good enough to let us use some DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) footage free of charge.  Andrew also brought in Shona McWilliams, who came on board as a Producer to help us out with various elements of the post-production.  They’ve both been great to work with and we’ve become good friends.

Sleaford Mods_Invisible Britain

What are Sleaford Mods saying that has enabled them to give a voice to the disenfranchised?
Andrew Tiernan:  Specifically, that’s hard to answer.  If you listen to their albums it’s just the feeling that you get; I related to Jason’s lyrics and Andrew’s music/beats, they just felt raw and they’re saying a lot more than anyone else.  I felt like they were the group I was looking for, for quite a few years.  I’d rinsed my music collection, so thank god for a new band, best of luck to them.
Paul Sng: I think a big part of their appeal to the disenfranchised is in the way they say things, almost as much as what they’re saying.  Sleaford Mods have articulated the frustration and futility of crap dead-end jobs and exposed how naff mainstream popular culture has become, which I think is why a lot of people identify with the lyrics.

How did you determine which causes and campaigns to focus on?
Paul Sng: Most of them came about via people who got in touch when they heard about the film.  That was how we found about people like Cathie Wood and the tragedy of what happened to her brother, Mark.  We met a young lad called Sam Horton when the band did a gig in Barnsley, and he put us in touch with Joe Hill and the people who run the Unite the Community project from the NUM headquarters.  We got to film an interview in Arthur Scargill’s old office with John Coan and Richard Vivian about the work they’re doing to help people in the area to defend themselves against things like zero hours contracts and the Bedroom Tax.  The venue which the band played in Scunthorpe, Café Indiependent, was a local project set up to give young people a chance to learn new skills and provide the local community with a decent arts venue.

Sleaford Mods_Invisible Britain-2

Andrew Tiernan:  JENGbA, was my suggestion to Paul and Nathan.  I had known Gloria and Jan (JENGbA founders) and a few of the other families since working on David Blair and Jimmy McGovern’s film, Common, which was when I first heard fully what Joint Enterprise was all about.  I knew the late Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four and his connection with MOJO (Miscarriages of Justice Organisation) and I was fully aware of his and his family’s experience of the justice system in the early 70’s, they’d used a form of joint enterprise there to convict all the family members, including his father, Guiseppe, who died in prison, an innocent man.  I was shocked that Joint Enterprise was being used again today to convict innocent people, largely due to the 2011 Riots and to prevent gang culture.  So I‘ve supported JENGbA and all their courageous work since, and felt that their story was vital to this documentary.

Sleaford Mods_Invisible Britain

When politics and music are intertwined, the results can often be a bit embarrassing.  How did you avoid veering into 80’s style Red Wedge territory?
Paul Sng: Sleaford Mods have never claimed to be a political band – that’s a label that others have stuck on them.  In the film, Jason describes it as social commentary, which it is.  As far as I’m aware they don’t subscribe to any ideology, they’re just musicians who have something to say about the state of the country.  Some people will say, ‘Well, that’s political then’, but I think it’s more complex than that.  I think politics is about intent, what you believe in and what you are willing to fight for.  As a band they aren’t waving a flag for an ideology or attempting to steer people in a certain direction, which is what politicians do.  They don’t claim to represent anyone else.

Andrew Tiernan: It’s not just about the music; it’s also about what affects normal people in their day-to-day existence.  The budget cuts, the Atos assessments, the con that is Austerity, like Jason says in the film; “Austerity’s worked for the rich – it’s not worked for the rest of us”.  The anger that is in Jason’s lyrics is real, but it’s even worse than that on the streets, and if the Government carries on the way it’s going, there’s going to be utter chaos in this country and they won’t be able to control it.  People need to have a voice and be heard and if they pick up on Sleaford Mods, they channel that a bit, it confirms what they’re feeling and if used right it shows what positivity you can get from anger.  ‘Only Sleaford Mods can save us now’, as the saying goes.

Sleaford Mods_Invisible Britain

Paul Sng interviews Jason Williamson (vocals/words) from Sleaford Mods in an exclusive interview.

Paul Sng: The set up you have when you play live is very simple.  There’s no gloss, no pretension, it’s just you singing, and Andrew pressing a button on his laptop and bopping about while drinking.  How did the idea for it come about?
Jason Williamson: Well, I already had that idea already with being into stuff like the Wu Tang and all that. If you listen to any of their early stuff, RZA’s really good.  It’s a real basic fucking set up.  The sounds that he gets, they’re all really fucking basic because he didn’t have much money. Obviously, he came from very sort of poorish background, so they were using the best of what they could.  That really appealed to me.  The way I was changing as a person, my values and priorities were changing, and what I saw around me and gave me a more bleaker idea of what the world was, frustration, etc.  That all really suited that approach to music I thought. So it was just a case of purely, basically trying to explain that to Andrew in the basic terms and then he’d just get on with it.  And then he started slowly developing his own version of that.  And that’s where we’ve come to today.

Paul Sng: What do you think of the state of modern music today?
Jason Williamson: It’s not very good is it?  Some things are coming up, I suppose, but it really is impossible to try and answer that fully because you’re not aware of all the projects that are probably starting to come off.  I think things are starting to change slightly.  It’s certainly been a bit more fruitful than it has over the last few years.  There are people starting to try and do new things as opposed to just your old pastiches.  But even those that are doing pastiches are doing them in a kind of a fresh way.  I quite like The Fat White Family, there’s something new about it . Dean Blunt as well, and people like Ghost Poet.  There’s a few things happening, but you’ve still got a long way to go haven’t you?  It’s just people’s attitudes towards it, though.  If the attitudes are going to remain the same, then the music won’t go anywhere.  Still, people are very much concerned with music as a career, as a money spinning idea, as opposed to getting something out of it that they want to say.  People aren’t really relying on and don’t really take much notice of their own experiences and how they’re feeling.  They’d rather just go for a business model d’you know what I mean?  I mean, you can’t tell me that any of these big sellers on these big labels are fucking doing something that they truly wanna do.  It’s a fucking day in the office innit?  You can’t say that Paloma Faith is integral ‘cause she’s fucking not.  Any of those, Sam Smith, the lot.  It’s all a day at the office innit?

Sleaford Mods_Invisible Britain

Paul Sng: What did you think about Paloma Faith having Owen Jones [left-wing political journalist] as her support act earlier in the year?
Jason Williamson: I just found it funny that Paloma Faith has suddenly got this consciousness, and yet her bosses are part of a big corporation.  They’re part of the problem.  You’ve got this little puppet saying, ‘Oh no my fans, my fans. Getting worried about my fans’.  Fuck off.  Yeah, you know and then you’ll fuck off and forget about it.  You can’t be doing shit like that.  You know, I’d have probably listened to her if she’d have come up on her own with her own fucking style of music, instead of ripping Amy Winehouse off.  Or letting her bosses make her sound like Amy Winehouse.  You know, it’s crap.  That’s just crap.  It’s just fucking baked cake sentiment innit?  It made her look like the geezer of that baking show, what’s his name?
Paul Sng: Paul Hollywood?
Jason Williamson: Yeah, that’s it.  Bit like him turning around and all of a sudden becoming politically fucking conscious.  It’s just armchair bullshit.

Sleaford Mods_Invisible Britain

Paul Sng: Sleaford Mods gigs are quite an avant-garde performance, though, aren’t they?
Jason Williamson: They are, but the people aren’t stupid and they’ve had enough of guitar bands.  They’ve had enough of Oasis type bands.  They’ve had enough of lad, the whole idea of the lad and all this.  And yet bands keep coming out like that, but the crowd really aren’t that bothered.  And I think what they like about us is the fact that we…  There’s a little bit of it in Sleaford Mods in the sense of it’s quite real, but it’s a new package too.  You know, we’re not totally original, but there’s something fresh about it.  And that kind of goes in line with what people want, I guess.  People are looking for something new you know?

Paul Sng: What do you think is wrong with the music industry?
Jason Williamson: Anybody that’s remotely interesting just gets picked up by a label and then thrown onto the O2 circuit, or you know, the big gig circuit.  Or gets thrown in as a support band with the big hat you know what I mean?  And immediately they can’t cut off from the realities of the club circuit.

Paul Sng: You made a conscious choice to avoid that didn’t you?
Jason Williamson: Yeah, we guide the music.  We got the identity together, the formula together.  Somebody picked up on us, and fortunately for us had this vision of let’s do it the old way. And that’s how its worked out.  That’s how I think bands should be, you know what I mean?  They should really think for themselves and try and do something a bit effective, as opposed to just wanting some kind of a career and being lazy about it.

“Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain” is Out Now in various Cinemas
around the UK and will be released on DVD and VoD soon.
For more information on the Documentary and links to screenings:
Andrew Tiernan’s film ‘Dragonfly’ is available now on Vimeo on Demand Worldwide to Stream or Download:
Sleaford Mods – New album, Key Markets out now.

Monday, 9 November 2015

'I'd never heard of Joint Enterprise until I went to jail'

'I'd never heard of Joint Enterprise until I went to jail'

LIFE-CHANGING EVENT: Kenny Imafidon was fortunately acquitted of murder but many others are still locked up
LIKE MANY of you reading this article, I had never heard of joint enterprise until some time ago.
Well, not until May 9, 2011.
Following the arrests of three of my close friends I was charged with murder and six other offences I did not commit.
When I was charged, I had just turned 18 years old and I was preparing to sit my A2 exams so that I could attend university. At the time, tuition fees were still £3,000 a year.
You might think that in order for me to be charged with offences that carry a potential 30-year life sentence, that Operation Trident and the Crown Prosecution Service would have had concrete evidence.
Both had to prove I committed those crimes or that I was present when they took place. The truth is they had nothing concrete.
All they had was circumstantial evidence (such as mobile phone evidence showing communication between me and people I spoke to on a daily basis).
However, as far as the prosecution were concerned, if my friends (who were also suspects) committed a crime then so had I.
After wasting six months of my life on remand at Feltham Young Offenders Institute, I was eventually acquitted half-way during the eight-week trial on directions of the judge, which rarely happens in high-profile cases heard at the Old Bailey.
The prosecution had insufficient evidence against me.
It was only after leaving prison that I realised joint enterprise was more widely used than I thought; my case was only one of many.
Joint enterprise is a doctrine created over 300 years ago, which allows people to be found equally as guilty for a crime that somebody else has committed.
This doctrine was initially designed to combat illegal duelling between aristocrats. It was used to convict the surviving duellist as well as those who aided, supported or encouraged the duel jointly for murder.
Now, this doctrine has been dusted off and reintroduced as an effort to tackle gang-related violence, particularly homicides in Britain.
So, for example, in a murder case in which there are two or more defendants, a defendant can be found guilty without intent to kill or commit serious harm.
They simply have to foresee that their co-defendant “might" kill, or “might" inflict serious harm.
You do not have to be a legal expert to know that there is something wrong with using this ‘law’ inasmuch as it has the potential to drag innocent people into the criminal justice system. Yes, it may be used to bring about justice such as in the conviction of Stephen Lawrence’s and Ben Kinsella's murderers. However, these are exceptional cases.
This doctrine is being abused by the police and prosecutors who are using it disproportionately against the black community.
If cases like mine or those of Edward Conteh, Alex Henry or Diane Churchly are not convincing enough then Jordan Cunliffe's case should.
Jordan is blind and he did not take part (neither was he able to witness the attack that killed the victim), yet he is serving a 12-year life sentence.
It’s not only me who thinks joint enterprise must be reformed but also several MPs, the Law Commissioner, the Justice Select Committee, academics and campaign groups such as JENGBA (Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association) who have been very vocal about their concerns over joint enterprise.
Thank God I am here to share my story. Many aren't. It would be naïve to say that everyone prosecuted under joint enterprise is innocent, but I can promise you that there are many who have been victim to miscarriages of justice and are presently serving life sentences for crimes they did not commit.
The Supreme Court case being heard this week (supported by JENGBA and Just for Kids Law) is a fine opportunity for the law to be reformed. I just hope the judges make the right decision.
Kenny Imafidon is a political commentator and the award-winning author of the Kenny Reports.

Monday, 26 October 2015

No justice!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Legal Initiative Conference on Joint Enterprise 2-4 pm, 26 Oct 2015, University of London


                                 Date:               26th October 2015
                                 Time:               2 – 4PM
                                  Location:        Keynes Library, 43 - 46 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD

The Event

Legal Initiative would like to invite you to an upcoming conference titled: 'Afternoon of awareness' whereby JENGbA (Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association), and Doughty Street Chambers Barrister Tunde Okewale will speak at Birkbeck, University of London.

JENGbA was launched in 2010 as a grass roots campaign with the mission statement of amending or abolishing the 'joint enterprise' law, and overturning the convictions of people who have not directly contributed to the commission of an offence.

The engaging discussion followed by Q&A will come one day before the important Supreme Court hearing of R v Jogee on October 27th & 28th which may hold major significance for the controversial criminal law 'joint enterprise' doctrine.

If you are interested in law, human rights, social justice, or want to network with passionate people striving to bring a positive change to our society, please join us at this FREE event and be a part in helping achieve institutional change.

Registration is welcome but not required.

The Speakers

       Jan Cunliffe (mother of Jordan Cunliffe, a blind 15 year old convicted of murder through the 'joint enterprise' doctrine)

       Mandy McCracken (mother of Gerard Childs, whose 'joint enterprise' murder conviction was recently overturned from murder to manslaughter)

       Gloria Morrison (Co-Founder and Campaign Co-ordinator of JENGbA)

       Tunde Okewale (Founder of Urban Lawyers and Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers)

Please contact Legal Initiative for further information regarding the event: 

Friday, 25 September 2015

Campaigners crowdfund fees for crucial Supreme Court intervention - Mischa Wilmers

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Campaigners crowdfund fees for crucial Supreme Court intervention

(Originally published in the Big Issue in the North)
A group of women campaigning against the law of joint enterprise have successfully crowdfunded their legal fees for a critical intervention in a forthcoming case at the Supreme Court. 
Janet Cunliffe of JENGBA visiting her son Jordan prison
Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGBA) used the pioneering website, Crowd Justice, to raise over £10,000 for an intervention in the case of Ameen Hassan Jogee, whose appeal of his 2012 murder conviction will be heard by the Supreme Court in October.
JENGBA’s lawyers will seek to use the intervention to argue that the controversial joint enterprise doctrine has led to a number of miscarriages of justice and the excessive criminalisation of secondary participants in murder cases. 
Janet Cunliffe, a co-founder of JENGBA whose son Jordan is also appealing his conviction for the 2005 murder of Gary Newlove, said she hopes the intervention will lead to the law being amended:
“This is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to go to the Supreme Court with a valid argument. I think the Supreme Court will come out in our favour and once the judges clarify how the law should be amended then the government can act on that.”
Joint enterprise is a doctrine of common law under which a person who is not directly implicated in a murder can nevertheless be convicted as part of a group if it is proven they could have foreseen the killing taking place. The law is designed to facilitate the prosecution of entire groups for murder, regardless of who dealt the fatal blow.
However, critics argue it amounts to guilt by association and last year a House of Commons Justice Select Committee inquiry called for an “urgent review” into the doctrine, warning that it could lead to miscarriages of justice.
Despite the report’s warnings the use of joint enterprise in murder prosecutions remains widespread. In July JENGBA penned a letter to Lord Chancellor Michael Gove urging him to “place an immediate moratorium on the Crown’s use of joint enterprise, until reform or preferably abolition occurs”.
The group’s successful crowdfunding campaign is one of the first to be successfully funded since Crowd Justice was founded earlier this year. Cunliffe hopes the venture will help raise money for other individuals and campaigns who are struggling to afford the costs of accessing justice due to legal aid cuts.
“I think it’s very sad that people have to go to that extreme in order to get adequate legal representation,” said Cunliffe, “But I also think it’s positive that people can get the funding they need off their own back by using Crowd Justice.”
The website allows individuals and groups - who have the backing of a lawyer but cannot afford legal fees - to pitch their cases to an online community of backers. It was founded earlier this year as a social venture by former UN lawyer, Julia Salasky, who hopes the scheme will help in the quest to “democratise justice”:
“If you’re not a very wealthy individual it’s actually extremely expensive to access the courts. There have been huge cuts in legal aid and in some areas court fees have gone up over 600% over the last 12 months.
“We set up Crowd Justice to look at ways that people can come together to overcome those financial barriers when there’s a court case that affects their community or an issue that’s important for them.”
Earlier this year a report by Unite the Union and Goldsmiths University of London estimated that the government’s £350million cuts to the legal aid budget since 2013 have had “extremely negative impacts” on 623,000 people – the vast majority from disadvantaged sections of the population.
Salasky hopes Crowd Justice can be useful to some of these people and is especially excited about JENGBA’s successful campaign which she predicts could have a significant social impact:  
“Often in legal cases you’re holding the government or others to account which is a very powerful democratic privilege.
“In this case what is so exciting is that by going to the Supreme Court they really have the opportunity to change the law. To be able to crowdfund that and have all sorts of people feel they were part of that historic moment is pretty powerful.”

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

JENGbA Newsletter Issue 35 July-Sept 2015

You can view/download/print JENGbA's latest Newsletter Issue 35 July-Sept 2015 by clicking HERE

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

JENGbA shortlisted for Liberty Human Rights Campaign of the Year Award 2015

Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) are delighted that we have been short-listed for the Liberty Human Rights Campaign of the Year Award 2015.

This is a huge honour and a welcome acknowledgement of our achievements over the last 5 years in highlighting the abuse of Joint Enterprise charging to convict innocent people. JENGbA have always believed that joint enterprise systematically over-criminalises secondary parties and frequently results in innocent people being given mandatory life sentences. The effect of a life sentence is not only devastating for prisoners but on their families and wider communities also, which is why we have always seen this as an important human rights issue.

It is now recognised that the law of joint enterprise is in urgent need of reform by leading academics, MPs and former members of the Judiciary. Our campaign has brought this crucial issue to prominence and the injustice caused by joint enterprise is now being heard by the Supreme Court in October this year.

JENGbA believes that reform is imminent and we will continue our fight for justice for those already imprisoned.  We thank Liberty for recognising the importance of our work by short-listing us for this nomination and wish our co-nominees good luck at the Awards ceremony.

Friday, 28 August 2015


The Case For Treating Joint Enterprise As A Human Rights Issue

5 Years’ Worth of learning

When JENGbA was first formed in 2010, we wrongly assumed our campaign was only relevant to the Criminal Justice System of England & Wales, and that the amount of people we believed to be unfairly convicted of murder would be small.  As our campaign grew, the numbers of men, women and children we discovered serving life sentences for the actions of others increased to the point where there are now 500+ known to JENGbA who believe they have been unjustly prosecuted and excessively punished for lesser or even no role in homicides.  And we began to discover people claiming unfair conviction in other countries: Northern Ireland, Scotland, Republic of Ireland – all sentenced to life imprisonment under variants of Joint Enterprise (e.g. “Art & Part” in Scotland). Then more cases emerged of people in former British Colonies or parts of the Commonwealth, particularly in the Caribbean and Australia.

As JENGbA learned more about the legal notion of “Common Purpose”, a similar thread emerged – the influence of English judicial decisions in legal systems which follow the common law or which treat the decisions of our courts as authoritative.  The more we looked at cases and media reports of crimes involving homicide around the world, the clearer the picture emerged.  The notion of “Collective Guilt” is repeatedly used to transfer or share liability between people accused of involvement in serious crime where death had occurred.  We also became aware of variants of Joint Enterprise  which have similar effects – the Felony Murder Rule used in some parts of the United States, the Law of Parties used in Texas, Joint Criminal Enterprise used in Queensland & New South Wales in Australia, even in The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  The same process is in place – “rounding up” the criminal liability of people to that of the most serious offence, then convicting people for that offence and punishing them for it.

Fair Justice -v- Public Interest?

JENGbA is very aware this is a difficult, complex and highly contentious area of justice.  It is fraught with emotions on all sides and the stakes are high.  For some, it is sophisticated judicial practice where society sees that all who cause unlawful death pay for their crime together.  For others, it carries inherent unfairness and a high risk of miscarriages of justice in order for the police and prosecutors to “get a good result”.  And some would even argue, like the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Faulkner, that the issue is not whether the system leads to people being wrongly convicted, but whether we need a “draconian law” which allows a jury to convict even a “peripheral member of a gang which killed”. We strongly disagree with Lord Faulkner.[1]

JENGbA believes that justice should be applied fairly and consistently, and that individuals should only be made to account for their own acts rather than be held liable for the wrongdoing of another.  In the case of Joint Enterprise as it is used in criminal trials in England & Wales, it is undeniable that the low evidential threshold has led to a growing number of wrongful convictions and unjust life sentences for murder.  And there is no sign this will change without the intervention of the UK Supreme Court and/or legislation by Parliament. 

What does JENGbA do?

Our lobbying and campaigning for Joint Enterprise reform and for those unfairly convicted to be released or fairly re-tried has included submissions to the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, lobbying of Members of Parliament, demonstrations, speeches, using mainstream and social media to get our growing voices heard, and now  in making representations to the Supreme Court. 

We are at heart a group of ordinary families, friends and supporters of prisoners serving lengthy sentences for crimes we believe they did not commit.  But JENGbA’s campaign is also supported by politicians, legal professionals & academics, and even by the Law Society which has consistently called for reform.  And the Justice Select Committee has twice called for urgent changes to the way courts in England & Wales apply Joint Enterprise.

But is it really a Human Rights Issue? 

Should we care about the way Joint Enterprise is also abused in nations and states outside the UK? JENGbA feels we must.  In fact, we are beginning to get involved in Joint Enterprise cases in the Caribbean.  (One particular Jamaican case has a bearing on the pending Supreme Court’s consideration of Joint Enterprise.)  It is also very relevant that JENGbA has been short-listed for the Liberty Human Awards 2015 for Campaign of the Year.  In particular, Liberty highlighted our “campaigning to reform the law doctrine of joint enterprise, persuading the Justice Committee to recommend urgent change.”

We feel we are getting our message across to highly respected civic and campaigning organisations that Joint Enterprise is an affront to justice.

And JENGbA will not stop until we see reform.