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