It was recently announced that the Supreme Court is to look into issues surrounding the notorious joint enterprise law for the first time. This is a law under which many young working-class and ethnic-minority people have been put behind bars for crimes they did not commit.
The law is over 300 years old, and was originally introduced to discourage people from illegal duelling. However, it is now being widely used to prosecute individuals who happen to be ‘associated’ with a person who commits a crime, even if they were only marginally involved and had no prior knowledge of any intent to commit crime. The law operates on the presumption that everyone present at the scene of a crime must necessarily be aware of what other peoples’ actions are going to be, and that each bystander is therefore as culpable as the perpetrator.
The Supreme Court case has been brought by Ameen Hassan Jogge, who was convicted in 2012 under joint enterprise for the murder of Paul Fyfe, a former police officer. Jogge was actually outside of the house when the stabbing of Fyfe occurred inside.
Another case of injustice is that of Jordan Cunliffe, who at the age of 15 was convicted of murder. Friends of Jordan’s became involved in an altercation with a neighbour, Garry Newlove. There was no evidence that Jordan struck any blow; moreover, he could not see what was going on as he suffers from a rare eye condition which meant that his vision at the time was poor and he could have been registered as blind.
The Supreme Court has now been asked to review the joint enterprise law and how it operates in relation to murder prosecutions. A key question that will be asked is whether the law “over-criminalises secondary parties” since murder carries a mandatory life sentence not only for the murderer but also for his supposed ‘associates’, even though they themselves did not have the criminal intent necessary to establish guilt in the case of the actual murderer.
Clearly, so far as working-class communities are concerned, this law is not fit for purpose and is leading to numerous and gross miscarriages of justice. This is why the campaigning organisation JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association) is aiming to raise £10,000 to help meet the costs of paying leading human-rights lawyers to analyse a number of different cases in which a miscarriage of justice has occurred.
We ask our readers to donate to this campaign what they can afford and to support JENGbA. This law could be used against any one of us, including if we are arrested on a demonstration, a protest or a picket line. We also suggest that people watch the excellent TV drama on this subject by Jimmy McGovern, Common, which was reviewed in Proletarian No 61. (August 2014).