Friday, 26 February 2016

"An Amazing Day": Jan Cunliffe's message to JENGbA's Inside Campaigners about the UKSC landmark Joint Enterprise judgment

What an amazing day Thursday 18th February 2016 turned out to be. We were number two slot on the news. The Prime Minister made an announcement on the same morning, and according to a reliable media source it’s terribly rude not to put him on first even if what comes second is more interesting. I'm sure you're all aware that after the joyous reporting of the morning things started to falter with some of the mainstream media by late afternoon. That is probably because the BBC news website had gained over a million watched hits by lunchtime and bad murderous news stories sell better than good old fashioned success stories. This is perhaps why tactics changed by Friday morning with some of the papers awash with foolish headlines such as, 'Hundreds of Dangerous Murders Could Walk Free due to Supreme Court Ruling'. Don't worry though the Supreme Court Judges soon put the record straight and many MP's and knowledgeable legal people jumped on board to quash the mayhem via social media.

Facebook and Twitter was on fire with concerns from members of the public who were horrified that the law had taken a wrong turn for over three decades. Some were concerned that killers really would be set free, but still accepted how wrong it was that people who hadn't committed a murder were doing life for murder. There was some input from victims’ families, you may have noticed how they were confused and worried about the implications of the ruling, and quite rightly so.

It was never the job of JENGbA to inform victims’ families that a joint enterprise case was being heard at the Supreme Court, and even if it was possible to track down every family who had lost a love one and seen a conviction gained via joint enterprise, (which it isn't), it would have been highly inappropriate for us to contact them anyway. Firstly because we are here to support you, and secondly we had no idea what the result was going to be.

It seemed to me that some journalists felt there was a battle between victims of crime and victims of injustice. I am always asked how I feel about the victims, of course there is only one answer, and it is the same answer that every sane person would have. No victim was asked how they would feel if they found out that an innocent person was serving a life sentence for murder? We are not at war with the victims and nor should they be with us. The law took a wrong turn in 1984, the law got it wrong and because of that we are all paying a heavy price. Don't ever feel angry with the victims’ families, they have had the wool pulled over their eyes throughout,  and it must be devastating to now have to come to terms with the possibilities of what the future may throw at them.

So much news following the ruling means the vultures are circling. Good stories about miscarriages of justice sell newspapers, and a good documentary idea gets commissioned, so there is money to be made from all of our misery. I'm personally not worried about the media because if time and money can be invested by others in getting the message out there I welcome it, (as long as it is the truth). Many families did this and many more can contribute in the future, but they may want your permission first. I would say let them help you if they are willing to do so.

However, I am seeing law firms pop up declaring their acute awareness of the Supreme Court’s judgment and falling over themselves with promises of help. All I can say is JENGbA has been campaigning for years, we have struggled on a shoestring and to the best of my knowledge some of the names I'm seeing come out of the woodwork right now never showed an ounce of genuine concern for any of you or the JENGbA campaigners as we struggled to inform the public and MP's alike on the failings of joint enterprise. However, that is not to say it is all about the money and that alone, maybe they do have morals and a genuine concern. Only you can decide where and how you move forward, and who with. Just remember for those of you who are not wealthy, it should not cost you or your family anything right now. If you are asked for money upfront please contact JENGbA and we will find out why.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Five years later, and job half done

Five years later, and job half done 

When JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association) was formed in September 2010, we had no idea how many people were serving life in prison for murders committed by other people. Neither did the CPS which did not even bother to record when the common law doctrine of joint enterprise was applied in multiple prosecutions.

We suspected the number might be large but nothing like the 600 (and growing) who have been discovered so far.  It is no wonder that the Council of Europe’s figures show that the UK has the largest proportion of lifers for the population than the rest of Europe combined.  The projected cost of incarcerating so many prisoners for long sentences is staggering. It is also no wonder that the prison estate is bursting at the seams in England & Wales.

We knew joint enterprise was unfair and that it discriminated against people for being poor, young, black, Asian or from other ethnic minorities.  We knew the popular press was quick to swallow the easy label of ‘gang murder’ fed by politicians from all parties vying to be seen as ‘tough on crime’. We saw some police spokespersons gloating triumphantly as they claimed the streets were safer due to the deterrent of joint enterprise, although knife crime is currently on the rise. We witnessed the ease with which the CPS scored flimsy convictions on the basis of what someone supposedly anticipated another person might do.  Joint enterprise had become the perfect thought-crime and the UK was apparently the better for its wide application in the courts.

But we did not yet know how to tackle this injustice. Our Inside Campaigners, as we call the growing number of joint enterprise lifers, were reviled in the media as the worst of the worst and blamed for the most appalling acts of cruelty and violence possible.  What could a small group of women and families do to change the law?

We talked, we met, we sought advice from concerned legal professionals. We learned as much as we could about this Common Law doctrine and found who was speaking out against its misuse.  We were surprised to discover that some very distinguished politicians, senior judges, legal academics and many others shared our concerns.

And as the JENGbA family grew, our Outside Campaigners became more confident and our voices grew louder. We knew we were making headway when knee-jerk critics  poured scorn on our campaign and some career politicians tried to write us off as misguided do-gooders or families of criminals who were too blinded to accept the reality of what our loved ones had done.

But we didn’t slink away defeated and ashamed. We knew we were right to challenge this legal abuse and we gained more interest and support. JENGbA has been aided, guided and bolstered in our campaign by many wonderful supporters, from ordinary people helping stuff newsletters into envelopes and joining demonstrations to extraordinary people – actors, musicians, authors, legal practitioners & lecturers, reporters and even some politicians from all leanings who put hard principles before cheap popularity.

It all culminated in the UK Supreme Court this week with the electric moment when Lord Neuberger declared that the law had taken a wrong turning 30 years ago. JENGbA finally knew our campaign with others for joint enterprise reform had been successful.  The imbalance in the criminal law of England, Wales and Northern Ireland had shifted towards fairness and a higher evidential threshold needed for conviction had been restored.  Prosecutors would have to work harder to prove guilt and individual responsibility would matter more than collective liability.

But what now for the 600-plus already known to JENGbA and for other unknown joint enterprise lifers? And what now for JENGbA itself?

It is far from over. The hard work begins of ensuring all those convicted unfairly by joint enterprise are identified and their cases reviewed as quickly as possible. JENGbA will hold those charged with this task to account. The means by which the courts and Ministry of Justice will deal with those affected by this week’s landmark ruling have yet to be worked out. We wait for the UK government’s response and to hear exactly what is proposed. But JENGbA will not rest until all the men, women, boys and girls condemned unfairly to life sentences by Joint Enterprise are given fair justice.

For some, the convictions should be erased and they should be helped to rebuild their lives as innocent, exonerated citizens. For others, the murder convictions should be quashed and replaced by lesser convictions with smaller penalties.  For few, their guilt may not alter and sentences remain in force but even for these they should be afforded a case review to ensure the law has properly taken its course.

Those affected by unjust convictions should be given legal help as the cost of doing so is far outweighed by the burden on the state of keeping them unfairly locked up.  The overcrowding of prisons will be eased and huge savings can be achieved in the process of redressing injustices. Help and compensation should be available for those whose lives have been cruelly disrupted by unfair convictions.  Again, this is a small cost against the public financial burden of incarcerating people unjustly for many years.  The personal costs of injustice on the prisoners and their loved ones cannot be calculated but JENGbA feels some provision to help those affected must be offered, not as an appeasement for judicial abuse but as a marker of a civilised society.

We wait to see what happens but we will not wait too long. Your call, Mr Gove.

Thursday, 18 February 2016


Legal history has been made today - the law of joint enterprise as we know it is dead.

This was a law which allowed someone to be sent to prison for life merely because he or she foresaw what someone else might do. We said that it was a “lazy” law, a short-cut to conviction which confused juries and judges alike and which has resulted in widespread miscarriages of justice for decades.

For more than five years, JENGbA has campaigned tirelessly for change.  The Supreme Court has listened and we have been vindicated.  

Gloria Morrison of JENGbA said:
“It has the taken the hard work of many people over many years to get to this stage but we were never in any doubt that reform would come. The more we talked to people about joint enterprise, the more they became convinced that it had to change. We are grateful to the Justice Select Committee for their work. Their call for a change in the law was a turning point. There are many academics, lawyers and journalists who have helped us along the way. We wish to thank them all but in particular, we are indebted to our patrons, Lord Herman Ouseley and Jimmy McGovern, whose drama Common brought home to millions the injustice that the law of joint enterprise caused.

JENGbA has achieved one of its central aims, but our job is far from over. There are huge numbers of prisoners, many serving life sentences, who have been convicted under a law which the Supreme Court has acknowledged was a “wrong turn”. This judgement will offer new hope to them, to their families and their friends. We will fight to overturn every wrongful conviction.”

Simon Natas of ITN Solicitors, JENGbA’s lawyer said:

“This is a great day for justice. The Court unanimously ruled that the principle of liability based on foresight was fundamentally wrong; the product of an “incomplete and in some respects erroneous reading of the previous case law” which could not be justified on public policy grounds.  In short, the law was unfair, set the bar for conviction far too low and quite simply, did not work. The law was always indefensible, but now it has been confined to history. ”

Monday, 1 February 2016

Report Finds Racist Law Enforcement In England...Again

Report Finds Racist Law Enforcement In England...Again