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  UKSC8)
This principle comes from the case of Ramsden  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.