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