Courts wrong on joint enterprise for 30 years


The Supreme Court paved the way for appeals by some offenders found guilty of murder, ruling that the law of joint enterprise had been wrongly interpreted for three decades.

In R v Jogee [2016] UKSC 8 the court unanimously held that the courts had been in error in equating ‘foresight’ on the part of a co-accused who had not struck the fatal blow, with ‘intent to assist’ the principal.

The correct approach was to treat that foresight as ‘evidence of intent’ together with the rest of the evidence.

Delivering the judgment in February, the President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, said: ‘The courts took a wrong turn in 1984. And it is the responsibility of this court to put the law right.’

Almost 500 people are thought to have been convicted of murder between 2005 and 2013 as secondary parties in joint-enterprise cases, many in gang-related attacks.

In December 2014, the Commons’ Justice Select Committee called for an urgent review into its use to prevent overcharging and expressed concern that a large proportion of those convicted were young black and mixed race men.

Shauneen Lambe, director of Just for Kids Law which intervened in the case, highlighted the increase in number of children, including some who are vulnerable and have learning difficulties, who have been ‘locked up for crimes that they did not intend to happen nor were they directly involved in’.

The murder convictions of the two men involved in the case were set aside. Defendants seeking to appeal their convictions will have to show that they would suffer ‘substantial injustice’ if they were not able to do so. See also 'The world post-Jogee' in Counsel, April 2016.

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