Friday, 25 November 2016


After a serious racial assault by a prison officer on Kevan Thakrar 2 weeks ago which we shall go into further detail in our letter of complaint to Wakefield Governor,  JENGbA have just received a call from Kevan Thakrar to be told he has been subjected to another racist attack today.  Fellow prisoner in the Closed Supervision Centre (Solidarity Confinement) at Wakefield, Charles Bronson has assaulted Kevan today by collecting and storing faeces in a plastic bottle.  He deliberately threw it over him as he walked by his cell from behind his cage.  Kevan knows he has been encouraged to do this by the prison officers who have continually subjected him to racist abuse by offering incentives to the other inmates in the CSC.  When Janet Cunliffe and myself, visited him a couple of months ago the other inmates screamed racist abuse at us when we left, of course we complained but we were ignored. If they can do that with impunity to visitors and not punish anyone what might happen to Kevan behind closed doors is truly terrifying. 

This assault happened in front of officers, Kevan was being escorted by 7 officers as is the norm whenever he is allowed to leave his cell, yet no action has been taken against Bronson and he is remaining on enhanced regime thereby sanctioning his behaviour. Not only did he throw a bottle of shit at Kevan, he shouted racist abuse and was not once ordered to stop.  Bronson is one of the ‘Death before Dishonour’ racist gang that is being recruited in prisons and operating inside HMP Wakefield.  Please write in support of Kevan Thakrar A4907AE HMP Wakefield 5 Love Lane Wakefield W. Yorks WF2 9AG

Gloria Morrison Campaign Co-ordinator JENGbA

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

***** PRESS RELEASE - 31.10.16 *****

JENGbA has been fighting for justice for the past 6 years.  During that time we have experienced many setbacks as well as successes.

Today's Court of Appeal judgement is a huge disappointment, not just for all the families involved but all those wrongfully convicted ever since the law took a "wrong turn" over 30 years ago.

It is our understanding that the applicants are taking legal advice on whether this judgement can be appealed.

JENGbA intends to support them in every way we can.

Gloria Morrison
Campaign Co-ordinator
07709 115793
07725 727520


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

JENGbA Call For Help - Edward Conteh

JENGbA have had a call from Edward Conteh who is currently being held at a deportation Centre Brook House Gatwick.  He has been given a ticket to Brussels for a flight leaving 6th October.  He has no family or contacts in Brussels and as far as he knows he is not being given accomodation. 

Edward is a particularly vulnerable young man who was 200 yards away with Joe Appiah running away from boys attacking them when an incident resulting in a fatality on the other side of the park.  Edward's deportation hearings were a disgrace - JENGbA campaigners attended many - he was low risk until a new Probation officer he never met decided he was high risk based on 'intel' that he had NO evidence of.   JENGbA found him a deportation lawyer and she is working with a criminal lawyer pro bono to try to stop his deportation.  

But this is where the JENGbA campaigners need to take a stand - can everyone write to the Home Office James Brokenshire MP and demand that Edward is allowed a chance to appeal his conviction for a crime he did not commit.  

Also send Edward cards of support so the detention centre know we are on to them.  

Edward Conteh 
Brookhouse Detention Centre
Perimeter Rd S,
London Gatwick Airport,
Gatwick RH6 0PQ

If anyone has any contacts with deportation/immigration campaigns please let us know - we might need to go and do a protest also - perhaps this Friday.

Compaign Co-ordinator

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Substantial Injustice - John Crilly, fellow JENGbA Campaigner

What constitutes Substantial Injustice?  As I sit in my cell, having served eleven and a half years of a twenty year tariff for a conviction of [joint enterprise] murder, I have to ponder this question if I have any chance of gaining [simple] justice.  Basically, I am astounded that this is even considered a legitimate question by those who represent the very best of our judiciary. 

Having established that our criminal “justice” system have been manipulating a doctrine – not even a substantive law – for the best part of thirty years (the length of some tariffs), the Supreme Court determined that anyone convicted under this unjust doctrine (pre-Jogee) must first show that they are suffering from Substantial Injustice. 

I have been studying for a law degree for 5 years now, briefly touching on criminal law along the way, so I cannot claim to be as knowledgeable as are our esteemed judges.  However, the Rule of Law: Right to a Fair Trial and the fundamental maxim that No Person is Above the Law all mean nothing if this question is allowed to be accepted. 

Injustice is what it says on the tin.  If something is found to be unjust then surely allowing the word substantial to be prefixed to it is an act of the judiciary putting itself above our fundamental Rule of Law and an unconstitutional mockery. The judiciary seem at odds to ‘ever’ put their mistakes right – if you are lucky enough to be able to prove them wrong in the first place – they use rules of construction/interpretation to slip through rough terrain like a snake.  

They come out with complete madness such as:
“…where a conviction has been arrived at by faithfully applying the law as it stood at the time. It can be set aside only by seeking exceptional leave to appeal out of time.  That court has power to grant such leave, and may do so if substantial injustice be demonstrated, but it will not do so simply because the law applied has now been declared to have been mistaken.” (R v Jogee [2016] UKSC8)
This principle comes from the case of Ramsden [1972] Crim LR 547, which involved a conviction of Dangerous Driving for which the relevant sentence involved would be from 6 months up to 3 to 4 years at worst.

Do not get me wrong, one day in prison is too long, especially if wrongfully convicted but in most Joint Enterprise cases I know of, we are talking of minimum sentences from 15 years all the way up to 40 years.  That to me (and I am sure to anyone who was unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person) is unequivocally unjust.  

How have words such as ‘exceptional’ and ‘substantial’ been allowed to be accepted into the equation?  Stop and Search, Two-Strikes, IPP and best of all ‘JE’ are very clear indicators of a criminal “justice” system in crisis, less focused on the cornerstones of Law which they [judiciary] represent, and more concerned with what the ‘red-tops’ will report. 

Sorry, but I have to laugh, if I don’t I can only cry. And I have – and will continue to do so, for the victim (who is never far from my thoughts), the victim’s family and friends, my family and yes sometimes even for myself.  

I was a drug addict for 14 years and put needles in myself every day.  I did not care if I overdosed and died, but paradoxically I did care about my family. I never intended to hurt them or anybody else.  However, in Law my ‘intention’ is paramount relative to a conviction for murder especially satisfying the burden of proof – ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.  Criminality as a whole dictates that people will invariably find themselves associating with individuals who they do not particularly want to. Kids mostly join “gangs” due to nothing more than fear.  They are caught up in conflicts that they had no part in starting and therefore, logically have no ‘intention’ of finishing by which I mean by hurting anyone!  They simply stay at the scene for a variety of reasons (fear, shock) and pretend to be involved or even half-heartedly participate for no other reason than to prevent them from also being a victim. 

In my case it was shock and a fear for the victim: as a drug addict I can talk from experience. From when I first stuck a needle in my arm in 1991 for reasons that are irrelevant, I have associated with literally hundreds of different addicts from hundreds of different areas up and down the country. How am I, seriously expected to know what they are capable of; I mean what they’re really capable of?  I have been released from prisons in places such as Cumbria, Liverpool and Preston and have stayed there for a time ‘associating’ with people I do not know well enough to judge how they may act in any given situation.  Thankfully nothing bad ever happened on those occasions other than the usual back-stabbing and disagreements associated with addicts, so I would simply move on. 

However in an area not too far from where I lived in Manchester but still far enough for me to be an outsider I began ‘associating’ with more people I had no background information on. One of these, my co-defendant, I had known for no more than twelve weeks.  Imagine you daughter meets a new boyfriend. Twelve weeks in the relationship you go for a meal with them. On the way home you are passing a group of lads who make a rude remark to your daughter and subsequently start harassing her.  In the eyes of the law you are entitled to use legitimate, reasonable force to protect yourself and your daughter; so you simply try to push the assailants away with the sole ‘intention’ of getting away.  Simple right?!  Wrong.  Your daughter’s boyfriend proceeds to physically attack of the lads and uses much more force, aggression than you would have intended used.

Is it fair that you are just as responsible for any consequences which may follow from his (another person’s intent) conduct?  What if the victims dies? Murder, Manslaughter charges for you and your daughter, think about that!  It could have been one single punch. And not just you, your daughter is just as responsible because she did not stop it.  Bear in mind, if you knew him for twelve weeks and had been out with him before (and your daughter) and you had witnessed him maybe get aggressive in a verbal confrontation – you would be presumed (courts love a presumption) as realising there is a possibility (even a vague possibility will suffice) that he could be aggressive: a vague possibility in my case was sufficient.  

Under the misused, unjust pre-Jogee doctrine if there was any possible foresight on your part that a person could do something, then you (and your daughter) are going to be held equally responsible.  And if the consequence is murder then you are all going to receive a mandatory life sentence and your tariff could be 20, 25, 30, 35 years.  I am, as are hundreds of others, actually serving these sentences. We know what equates to injustice; for me it is being labelled a murderer having not laid a hand on the victim, and I must add having not encouraged my co-defendant to either. 

Yes I know I was a drug addict, and yes I did terrible things to get my drugs but nothing close to what I’m convicted of.  I totally accept that I put myself in the position I was in and am totally prepared to go to prison for every single day of a sentence which reflects MY part/intention - not that of someone I had no control over. 

Is this fair?  Is this justice? There was no evidence that I threw the one punch which tragically killed the victim (it was proved my co-defendant threw it) but the simple fact that I could have “possibly” foreseen what my co-defendant ‘might’ do was enough. 

Joint Enterprise murder convictions like mine are clearly an Injustice, “substantial” or not.

Message to all JENGbA Campaigners and Supporters from Gloria Morrison, Campaign Co-ordinator

From Glo:

We know our website ain't the most up to date and actually it hasn't been updated for months.   The grassroots nature of our campaign means that Maria (Supporting her boyfriend Dean) has to come after work to my home (supporting far to many now to mention!) and put in updates.  The summer months have been tricky because:

1. I and many other JENGbA campaigners were travelling up to Nottingham for the trial of Ameen.  Which was knackering and I am amazed that Rachael stayed sane. But at least as his mum she had hope - which without JENGbA lots of us would have lost years ago.

2. As ever the Criminal Justice system is making us tread on coals and stay in limbo. By treading on coals I mean our hearts and minds will stay subserviant to their rule - because they will decide our loved ones futures - and limbo because they are taking so long about it.  Why?  We all know why because they have no idea how to cover up this mess - and so we have to stay 'on it' until we know their next move.

For that reason can every single one of you click on

as often as you can so that a crap legal firm and articles from commentators do not supercede our work and achievements.  Website ain't perfect but just like  JENGbA it is built from love from campaigners who care.  (Thank you Maria).

Glo, your fellow campaigner!

JENGbA - Joint Enterprise Not Guilty By Association
Norland House Office A
Axis Community Hub
Queensdale Crescent
W11 4TL

T: 07709115793

Monday, 12 September 2016

"Ameen Jogee Cleared Of Murder, Sentenced To 12 Years For Manslaughter" by Miranda Grell of The Justice Gap

This morning at Nottingham Crown Court, following a three day retrial of his case, Ameen Jogee was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the manslaughter of Paul Fyfe. A jury acquitted Jogee of murder earlier in the month and returned a manslaughter verdict last Monday. As he has already served five years in prison, Jogee will now only be required to serve another nine months before he is released.
Today’s sentencing marks the end of a high profile legal battle for Jogee who, in February, won a landmark appeal in the Supreme Court that led to his original murder conviction being quashed and a retrial ordered.
His lawyers had argued in the Supreme Court that the ‘joint enterprise’ legal principle under which he was convicted in 2012 had been incorrectly applied at his original trial and was also being incorrectly applied across the courts. The Supreme Court agreed and allowed his appeal.
It also restored a pre-1984 rule that, for someone to be found guilty of a crime under joint enterprise, then they either needed to have committed the crime directly or – if they were a secondary party present at the scene – to have ‘intentionally assisted or encouraged’ the crime, rather than merely having had some ‘foresight’ that the crime might take place.
In the court’s words:
The correct rule is that foresight is simply evidence (albeit sometimes strong evidence) of intent to assist or encourage, which is the proper mental element for establishing secondary liability.’
Eyewitnesses who attended Jogee’s retrial told The Justice Gap that the main prosecution witness in the case, Paul Fyfe’s former partner – who was present at the scene on the night Fyfe died – had attended the retrial reluctantly and only after the police had threatened to arrest her. As she gave evidence at the retrial, she reportedly told the court: ‘This is what you (The Crown Prosecution Service) keep doing. You keep asking me the same question over and over again and I keep on giving you the same answer. He (Jogee) is not a murderer. He didn’t encourage or assist Mo (Mohammed Hirsi). He didn’t egg him on.’
The Crown Prosecution Service had taken four witness statements from her and at the retrial had sought to question her on the contents of her fourth statement. That statement contained testimony that on the night Fyfe died, Jogee had ‘waved a bottle around’ and shouted ‘come on’ outside the house. However, at the retrial she refused to confirm the contents of her fourth statement and the CPS had to make a formal application to turn her into a hostile witness.
Just before the hearing was adjourned for sentencing, Jogee’s barrister, Felicity Gerry QC, told the court: ‘Ameen Jogee falls to be sentenced as an accessory to manslaughter not murder. We cannot underestimate how hard it is for a young man to serve a life sentence as he did in these circumstances.’ Gerry read out a letter Mr Jogee had written to the judge, in which expressed his remorse and informed the court about the qualifications he’d studied for in prison.
Jogee’s mother Rachel Whitehead tweeted: ‘Finally justice for my boy. (It’s taken) five years to prove he is innocent. Happy we’re on the road home. I now see a future with my son, something I didn’t think I would see until I was an elderly lady.’
The campaign group Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) welcomed the manslaughter verdict but not the sentence. Speaking to The Justice Gap, JENGbA campaigner Gloria Morrison said: ‘We feel disappointed with the 12 year sentence. It seems very harsh considering Ameen was just standing outside. However, he will be home next year and there are still thousands of other people (convicted under joint enterprise) who won’t be.’
‘We do feel vindicated because had we not campaigned for the change in the law, the Supreme Court would not have come to its decision that the law took a ‘wrong turn’ in 1984 and Ameen would still be labelled a murderer. However, we still need better guidance on what constitutes ‘presence’ regarding aiding and abetting under the common law.’
Gloria Morrison
Morrison said that JENGbA was still waiting for decisions regarding four joint enterprise appeals heard in the Court of Appeal together back in June. ‘Michael Hall’s case in particular is shocking,’ she said. ‘He’s challenging the murder conviction that he was given for being in the same car park where a murder took place. He’s been in prison now for nine years.’
‘JENGbA intervened in the Court of Appeal hearing to put forward our view of what constitutes “substantial injustice” as per paragraph 100 of the Supreme Court’s February judgment,’ she said. ‘For us, being given the “murderer” label and receiving incredibly long mandatory sentences should be enough to qualify as substantial injustice. Despite today’s sentence, Rachel Whitehead is happy that her son Ameen Jogee will no longer be branded a murderer.’
Sandeep Kaushal of Defence Law Ltd solicitors who represented Ameen Jogee called the case ‘a miscarriage of justice that was corrected after five years of hard work and the will to challenge a legal error’.
[ Original  article available HERE ]

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Protest Against Close Supervision Centres

A secret world exists within the high security prison estate in England, known as the Close Supervision Centre (CSC) system. The dehumanisation of CSC prisoners begins at a very early stage, in the official justification for the creation of the CSC system, which focuses on the need to contain a new breed of unmanageable and unpredictable risks. It continues with the creation of classificatory categories of ‘dangerousness’ which objectify prisoners and make more of the category and less of the human in them, and it is reinforced by the tightly controlled and highly regulated routines.
In addition to isolation and extremely restricted movements, prisoners’ in-cell belongings are carefully regulated and subjected to relentless scrutiny and inspection. Prisoners remain in CSC units for years, decades even, made frustrated, angry and bored by their experiences with few avenues to vent their anger and with almost no opportunities to advance through the system. All perceived acts of disobedience or non-compliance by CSC prisoners, even of the most petty kind, are responded to brutally by gangs of prison officers clad in full riot gear who show no mercy when demonstrating their authority and power, sanctioned by Prison Service management at the highest levels. Rather than controlling violence, as it officially aims to do, this hyper-controlled environment breeds it.
Having now spent six years subject to the unofficial punishment of allocation to the CSC myself, it is clear that without real pressure to force the required change nothing but more negative and oppressive measures will be added.

Please lend your support for the abolition of the CSC system by attending the protest demonstration:
21 July between 12.30pm and 2.30pm outside the offices of the Prison Ombudsman and Independent Monitoring Board,  Rose Court, 2 Southwark Bridge, London SE1 9HS.

Kevan Thakrar A4907AE
Close Supervision Centre, HMP Wakefield, 5 Love Lane, Wakefield WF2 9AG

Monday, 23 May 2016

"Reluctantly, we uphold the appeal”: The problem with the Court of Appeal

"Reluctantly, we uphold the appeal”: The problem with the Court of Appeal

Those words are, I am proud to say, not mine. They are the words of Lord Lane who was “forced” to overturn Anthony Mycock’s burglary conviction in 1984. Mycock was by no means a "lucky duck" criminal who had managed to have his conviction  quashed on a faint technicality- he had, as the Court of Appeal was forced to acknowledge, been completely exonerated. It had transpired that the burglary he was convicted of had never happened, and the only witness had admitted that she had fabricated the entire story.

The Court of Appeal, in its modern incarnation, grew out of some legal changes in the early part of the last century. Prior to that criminal appeals had been an even more disorganised affair than they are today; appeals on a "point of law" (where you are appealing the way that the trial judge ruled on something) were very possible to appeal but "points of fact" (where you want to show that the fact pattern relied on by the prosecution was wrong) were much harder to put before a court. The jury's verdict, be it 'guilty' or 'not guilty', had been arrived at in secret, on whatever basis and should therefore be respected as final. The jury had sworn a solemn oath and could be trusted to have returned the right verdict.

It may seem disingenuous that this was the case. Surely, if a jury, or a Magistrate, had convicted a person on incorrect facts, or new evidence had come to light, it would be obvious that the matter had to be looked into again?

Sadly, this was not the attitude of many of the judges of the day. It is no secret that every new crop of judges in those days (and possibly these days, depending on who you ask) was littered with "hanging judges". A "hanging judge" did not just describe any judge who imposed the death penalty- after all, until 1965, murder was punishable with death. So, every High Court judge up until that point will have been forced to impose the death sentence during their career. The concept of a "hanging judge" was far more nuanced than it might seem. It described a judge whose philosophy was that there could be no redemption for murderers, and, as a corollary of that, that the jury system was an unquestionable facility for determining guilt. No re-examination was necessary, nor was it desirable. Judges with such a mentality in this day and age, mercifully, are not less loose with the ability to execute people- but as anyone familiar with joint enterprise in action will know, they still have a frightening amount of power to destroy a convicted person's life. If you accept a jury can be wrong, then it is very hard to reconcile that with a belief that the death penalty should be allowed. It is only by taking the view that jury's verdicts should be final that the death penalty makes any sense.

How does all of this relate to the inadequacies of the modern Court of Appeal? Well, quite simply, a disturbing attitude has filtered down through the years, it still persists today. The question of who makes up the judiciary, as a whole, is my starting point. I am not speaking about the lack of diversity on the bench; I am speaking about the way that judges are selected. It is received wisdom among the legal profession that, generally, you have a better chance of becoming a judge if you spent most of your time as a barrister (or solicitor, in rare cases) prosecuting. If you had a preference for defence work you might be perceived as too renegade to be trusted with a judicial position; you may look out for the interests of the defendant too much, to the detriment of the good working order of society. It is also no secret that the last three governments have introduced a raft of measures to make convicting defendants much, much easier than it was before. 

The removal of the prohibition on double jeopardy (i.e. re-trying a person who has previously been acquitted), firstly by the Conservative Government of the 1990s (in cases of bribery of a witness or juror), secondly by the Labour Government (in cases where "new and compelling evidence" emerges) was such a change- but it has so far led to just 7 convictions. 

The really insidious changes were to the rules of disclosure in 1996, which made it more difficult for defence teams to access all of the information held by the police on a particular case, and the 2003 changes to the rules on "bad character evidence" (these changes made it far easier for the prosecution to tell a jury that a defendant had previous convictions) and the admissibility of hearsay evidence (indirect evidence, not given in live court, such as where a prosecution witness has signed a statement and then refused to give evidence in court- this deprives the defence barrister of the opportunity to cross-examine the witness). 

One of the worst assaults on the defendant's rights came in the form of an Act passed by the Conservative government of the 1990s which seriously limited an arrested person's right to silence, by introducing "adverse inferences from silence" and "adverse inferences from failure to account". This Act of Parliament was an about-face from the prevailing understanding of not only the British justice system, but most justice systems the world over, that no person should be required to answer allegations put to them. It may seem unimportant that a person suspected of a crime has the right to remain silent, until you consider that "failing to account for forensic evidence" might mean being unwilling to give the police possible reasons why a pictogram (one trillionth of a gram) of someone's cells were on your clothes; hardly a reasonable thing to expect an ordinary person without a PhD in forensic science to explain.

In short, the attitude seems to be that more convictions will lead to a safer society. Not all judges take this view, but most do. This "crime control" philosophy demands that the best trials are those in which the prosecution can introduce as much evidence as they like, sometimes unchallenged and often evidence which assassinates the character of the defendant rather than direct evidence about the case in hand. Some judges favour a "due diligence" approach, which holds that if the legal system is to have any dignity, and if convictions are to be safe, then it is vital that the defence have the opportunity to challenge as much evidence as possible; and that evidence which has been obtained illegally is not put before the court, however strong. 

The Judicial Appointments Commission oversees the appointment of most judges in this country. Prior to this, the work was nominally done by the Lord Chancellor's office.  In reality, this hid an ugly word of Old Boys networks and taps on the shoulder.

You could not apply for any judicial role more senior than a Recorder (a barrister, or solicitor, who sits part-time as a Crown Court judge, trying the more simple cases). If you wanted to be a Circuit Judge or a High Court judge then your academic qualifications or skill as an advocate were far less important than whose cocktail parties you attended and who you had been at school with. So, we did away with this arcane system a decade ago and the JAC replaced it- all is well surely?

Not so. It is true that up to the level of a High Court judge all applications are directed through the JAC, a public body which has an approved selection process and accountability of some sort. But for the two highest ranks of the English bench, the Court of Appeal & The Supreme Court (formerly the House of Lords),  it is still up to the Lord Chancellor's office to decide who to promote from the High Court bench. It is a process largely unchanged from how it was 30 or 100 years ago- with a tap on the shoulder being given to those deemed "appropriate" for such an exalted position. It does not take much imagination to conceive of the characteristics that are being looked for. Legal excellence is certainly a requirement, very few career failures make it onto the Court of Appeal bench; an unblemished personal life is a necessity; an understanding that you will not make any dramatic decisions that could upset anybody else's applecart (e.g. a conviction rate obsessed government) also seems to be a requirement.

The odd renegade does slink through the selection process, but the Court of Appeal makes decisions by majority (3 judges, with a majority of 2 needed) and so it is quite rare that they do anything out of the ordinary. It does not take David Icke to draw the conclusion that this is because the Court of Appeal is good, most of the time, for nothing more than a bit of window dressing. 

You see, roughly 1,000 full criminal appeals against conviction are made to the Court of Appeal each year (to say nothing of the thousands and thousands more applications made which are refused by the "single judge process"- which I shall explain briefly below), less than 350, in a typical year, lead to any alteration being made to the original decision of the court (by which I mean either the quashing of a conviction, or substitution of a conviction). But, the equation for working out the odds of success for an appellant is more complicated than this. In the 1960s it was decided that it was no good that, in the rare cases where their Learned Lordships agreed that one of their Learned Brothers (as judges refer to one another) in the lower court had gone wrong, the scoundrel in the dock should simply walk a provision to allow their Lordships to quash a conviction but direct a retrial was introduced. Statistics are hard to come by, but it seems that in about 1/3rd of the cases where the Court of Appeal quashes a conviction they allow the prosecution to run a re-trial (depending on the age of the conviction, the severity of the offence and the way the wind is blowing at the CPS then they make or may not decide to actually have another trial). So, the odds of making a successful application to the Court of Appeal, being granted an Appeal, having your conviction quashed and not being re-tried are, by my reckoning, going to be in the 4-5% range (assuming 5,000 applications are made to appeal and roughly 200 defendant's convictions are quashed without a re-trial being held).

Other laws have been brought in to make it harder for good Court of Appeal judges to quash convictions, and easier for bad Court of Appeal judges to justify why they will not quash a conviction. Until the late 1990s, a conviction could be quashed on the basis that it was "unsafe" or that a "misdirection in law" had taken place. This covered most situations where an appellant had a genuine grievance about his or her original trial- either the judge had misdirected the jury, or the police had hidden evidence or a new witness had come forward. In 1997, it was decided that a "misdirection in law" was no longer, of itself, sufficiently good grounds to quash a conviction. The appellant had to prove that not only had there been a misdirection in law, but also that it had led to his conviction being unsafe. This change was justified on the basis that not all misdirections in law would jeopardise a conviction. This may be true, as sometimes, rarely, trial judges go further than they need to in directing a jury in order to ensure that the defendant is only convicted if the jury really is sure of their guilt- but the problem is that these sort of misdirections favourable to a defendant would not be the sort being appealed by said defendant! The only misdirections being appealed would be those where the trial judge had omitted something crucial when addressing the jury, or had coloured his directions by giving an inappropriate opinion of some of the evidence (or of the defendant) etc. So, in reality, this change only cut one way- to the detriment of appellants. It also provided modern "hanging judges" on the CoA with everything they needed to dismiss bothersome appeals brought by, in their minds, clearly guilty defendants who have been nit-picking in an attempt to secure another shot before a new jury.

They could have had a glaring misdirection in law, by the trial judge, highlighted and be free to say, "Yes, the learned judge was wrong, but in my view he was not so wrong that if he had been right the jury might have acquitted- therefore the conviction is safe". Until the change in the law this would not have been possible- they would have had to quash the conviction. 

The filtration system used by the Court of Appeal's criminal division is another problem. A single CoA judges hears very brief, very précised bases of appeal. These hearings can be over in a matter of minutes, but the single judge holds the power to either allow the prospective appellant to appeal before three judges or to prevent him from doing so. This is justified on the basis that a lot of appeals are hopeless, and such a justification may well pass muster with the bean counters in Whitehall at the Ministry of Justice, or in the pages of newspapers. BUT, in reality, this justification doesn't pass the smell test. You see, barristers may well be the "mouthpieces" of their clients but that does not permit them to say and do exactly as their clients please. Barristers are also "officers of the court", in the same way as a judge or court usher is, and they owe a duty to the court. They cannot represent a client at appeal on the basis of a hopeless legal challenge, simply to appease the client and to earn money. There is actually a specific, and somewhat misleading, term of art used to describe a scenario in which a barrister is trapped between his client's wishes (which are, notwithstanding the above, usually sacred) and his duties as an officer of the court....he or she is said to be "professionally embarrassed". I have witnessed this happen in open court just once, when an angry defendant demanded that his barrister challenge the admissibility of some disclosure evidence during a murder case, which was actually going to benefit the defendant's case- the barrister stood and announced, "Your Honour I have been instructed to oppose any decision to admit this evidence, I cannot provide any reason and am professionally embarrassed".

On the same basis barristers are prevented from disclosing certain information to juries in the hope of securing a perverse acquittal for their client. A barrister cannot tell the jury how long his client will receive if convicted in anything more than general terms, a fact which has great implications in joint enterprise cases (with jurors being astounded at the sentences handed down the most minor secondary participant). Equally, a barrister cannot tell a jury, "Yes, my client is guilty but you must acquit him as his behaviour was justified". It is an issue which came to the fore in the trial of Pat Pottle & Michael Randle, two activists who broke "KGB spy" George Blake out of prison. The two men were forced to dismiss their barristers and give their closing speeches from the dock. I segue into these two points about barrister's duty to the court only because they have such massive implications for joint enterprise trials. It is fair to assume that a lot more jurors would be in favour of acquittal if they knew the outrageous sentences imposed on secondary parties. Unfortunately, the only way for a defendant to make jurors aware of this is to represent himself.

So, it is quite simply nonsense to say that we need this filtration system to provide "worthless" appeals from taking up time. At any rate, there are provisions for "wasted costs orders" to be made if a barrister wastes the court's time with inane or irrelevant submissions- a humiliating fate no barrister would risk enduring.

The truth is that the Court of Appeal was set up to allow theoretical objections to convictions, but most judges are dyed in the wool believers that quashing convictions should be a rarity. I shall part with the words of Lord Denning, a man widely revered for his championing of the common man or woman, this was certainly true where the little man took on the government in the sphere of the public law....but if you wanted Lord Denning on your side, it was best not to appear shackled in the dock. In an interview about Rough Justice, a pioneering TV programme which sought to uncover miscarriages of justice and bring  them to light, he famously said, "Once judge and jury have come to a decision, the media MUST NOT go round trying to get what they call 'fresh evidence' so as to show, if they can that the decision was wrong". The shocked interviewer asked, "Even if that means innocent people in prison", Denning replied, "Yes". 

Denning was no worse than any other judge of his day, or of today, he was simply more outspoken. At the release of the Guildford Four he remarked that, "It would be better that we had the death penalty than this appalling vista" was understandably assumed that the 'appalling vista' he spoke of was police corruption and the shame of English courts convicting the innocent. In truth, he was observing that if the Guildford Four had been hanged then no appeals would have been brought and the British justice system never would have been disgraced before the world. For the COA the reputation of the system, it seems, is always more important than justice.

Josh Radcliffe