Monday, 11 April 2016

JENGbA's Letter to Robert Neill MP, Chair of House of Commons Justice Select Committee, 6 April 2016

Mr Robert Neill
Chair Justice Select Committee
House of Commons

6th April 2016

Dear Mr Neill

Thank you for attending JENGbA’s conference in the House of Commons in January when we launched the Manchester University & Centre for Crime and Justice Studies report on, “Dangerous Associations: Joint Enterprise, Gangs and Race.” I am sure you will agree it was a very important report and JENGbA welcomed the robust comments from the MP’s on the panel and those who attended. Lord Beith, your predecessor, in particular, was exceptionally outspoken about the concerns the previous Justice Select Committee had about joint enterprise charging, especially the overwhelming evidence of the disproportionate convictions of young men from ethnic minorities.

As you will be aware JENGbA’s years of campaigning have finally been vindicated by the Supreme Court decision on Feb 18th in R v Jogee when the Supreme Court Judges unanimously decided that the doctrine had been misinterpreted for 32 years since Chan Wing-Siu. JENGbA absolutely welcomes this decision, and we know that the years of campaigning as well as the two reports from the Justice Select Committee would have contributed to their decision that joint enterprise charging based on possible foresight was no longer tenable in our Justice System.

It is now of vital importance to understand what the Supreme Court did in this particular case, and this was to acknowledge that the law was not wrong and therefore did not need to be corrected, but that the actual courts interpretation of the law was wrong. It is this misinterpretation of the law that has been corrected not the substantive law itself. This is important because if it were the law itself that had been changed, then what the Supreme Court says about fresh appeals would be perfectly valid.

If people have been convicted of murder when as the law as it stood at the time they would not have been convicted of anything more than manslaughter, if even that, then surely an obvious miscarriage of justice has occurred and the courts should be keen to correct it.

It may be inconvenient for the court of appeal to have to clean up the mess left by previous courts, but if injustice has been caused then obviously that must be corrected.

Supreme Court said in paragraph 100 of the judgement,
“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 to the Court of 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.”

JENGbA believe this is wide open to challenge. The interpretation of the law over the last thirty two years may have changed as a result of the decision in Chan Wing-Siu but the actual law itself did NOT change. So in that period the courts have NOT been “faithfully applying the law as it stood at the time”, they have been misinterpreting what the law always was in the first place.

However, if they did not think the ruling would open the floodgates for appeals they are wrong, we have a number of appeals that we think will be successful because of the correction, but sadly there will still be a huge number of prisoners where the 'foresight' ruling will not apply even though they we not the principal or in many cases at the scene (as with the Cohen brothers article attached.)

JENGbA would like advice on how we get a full independent inquiry into the years of abuse that have allowed people to be convicted, predominantly, though not exclusively, of murder or manslaughter based on virtually no evidence except that someone loosely associated to the principle should have/may have/could have ‘known’ what he/she might do. JENGbA does not accept that the law took a wrong turn, lawmakers including the police and CPS and the courts took a wrong turn, in charging people using joint enterprise precisely because they had no other evidence against them.

JENGbA is currently supporting 698 prisoners and if as ordinary members of the general public we recognised that this doctrine was leading to mass numbers of miscarriages of justice, something the previous Justice Select Committee agreed with because of the evidence before them in submissions, then it is only right and proper that a fuller investigation is made into police and charging decisions to find out the truth.

We believe that transparency is now key and therefore urge for a full independent inquiry so that prisoners who are serving mandatory life sentences for crimes they did not commit can have a full case review.

We would like a moratorium to be issued that no legal transcripts or documents from cases can be destroyed until this is done.

We want the CPS and police to hand over disclosure evidence that prisoners and legal teams have been trying to obtain for years. This is extremely important as the current climate for the miscarriage of justice world is loaded with obstacles and malfeasance. The CCRC are currently struggling to cope with the cases they have before them, we do not believe they will be able to do the investigative work needed to get to the 'truth' our prisoners so desperately need.

We would also urge that an inquiry is made on the life licence for prisoners who were not the principle, but were convicted of murder as a secondary party using joint enterprise. These are people who are now at liberty but living on the outside with a life time of restrictions.

There is also an important discussion to be had about Schedule 21, as mandatory sentencing is not something supported by the general public.

A further Inquiry into joint enterprise charges based on the overwhelming evidence that JENGbA has now gathered through our cases can only merit the full attention and support of Parliament and we would truly appreciate any advice from the Justice Committee or those MP's who have been supportive of JENGbA's campaign on how we take this important prison and human rights issue forward.

For information we have included an article by the Investigative journalist Bob Woffinden into a case of the Cohen brothers JENGbA have been supporting along with their families as a clear example of these exact obstacles and malfeasance prisoners seeking to right a miscarriage of justice are unable to overcome.

Yours sincerely

Gloria Morrison
Campaign Co-ordinator Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association.

cc. Mr Andrew Mitchell MP, Mr Andrew Slaughter MP, Lord Alan Beith, Lord Herman Ouseley, Baroness Lola Young, Mr Stephen Pound MP, Mr Keir Starmer MP, Kate Osamor MP, Mr Jeremy Corbyn MP, Emily Thornberry MP, Sadiq Khan MP, David Davis MP, Gorden Marsden MP, John McDonnell MP, Diana Abbott MP, David Lammy MP, Dame Tessa Jowell, Baroness Neuberger, Lisa Nandy MP, Helen Jones MP, Baroness Jenny Jones, Lord Wolfe, Lord Ramsbottom, Baroness Joan Bakewell, Steve Rotheram MP, Oliver Dowden MP, John Pugh MP, Dominic Grieves MP, Andy Burnham MP, Yasmin Qureshi MP, Maria Eagle MP, Stephen Twigg MP.