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Monday, 20 September 2010

Joint Enterprise: changing the law on murder will not solve the problem of innocent people wrongly convicted

Changes in the law relating to murder were proposed today as a solution to
problems caused murder convictions under the joint enterprise law. But these
changes will do nothing to prevent or rectify the conviction of innocent people
through use of this law.
The changes were proposed on the BBC Today Programme of 8 September 2010 by
former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Lord Macdonald and supported by current
DPP Keir Starmer and former Met police chief Lord Blair. But Joint Enterprise: Not
Guilty by Association says: they and others interviewed by the Today Programme,
including former lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, Labour leadership contender Diane
Abbott MP, and BBC law correspondent Clive Coleman, have all failed to recognise the
key problem:
The joint enterprise law itself makes conviction for serious crime so easy
that many completely innocent people are being convicted of murders
that were nothing to do with them, and given life sentences often with
minimum jail terms of over 20 years.
Some people convicted of murder under joint enterprise law admit they were engaged in
a related criminal activity but deny that they could have known a murder could be
committed by someone else present. They are often wrongly convicted of a crime far
more serious than the one they actually committed.
But the victims of this defective law who have suffered worst are those who are innocent
of any crime.
Why is the law defective?
Originally designed to convict individuals who encourage another to commit a crime on
their behalfi, in recent years the joint enterprise law has been developed by prosecutors
and judges so that whole groups of vaguely associated individuals can be convicted of
murder even if there is no evidence that any of them physically attacked the victim.
□ The defect is inherent in the law itself, because proof that someone is present at a
crime scene, knows what the actual perpetrator intends, or is part of a ‘gang’ can be
based on minimal, poor quality evidence like
๔€€€ records that phone calls were made (not what was said in the calls) or
๔€€€ witnesses who agree to testify only in order to escape prosecution for the same
without any corroboration.
□ The defects are being deliberately exploited by the police in order to clear up crimes
without bothering to engage in serious detection: they round up possible suspects
and offer the options of informing on someone else or being charged themselves.ii
But some of those arrested know nothing about the crime, so they have no
information to give the police.
□ The police feed the courts with stories about dangerous gangs and “wolf packs” (Lord
Blair’s term), and senior judges respond by developing the law to meet perceived
public policy needs rather than the interests of justice.
□ Judges permit unwarranted inferences to be drawn from inadequate evidence. A
defendant can be assumed to be a member of a ‘gang’ if she or he made phone calls
to another assumed member of the ‘gang’.
Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association asks that instead of accepting the
assurances of politicians, lawyers and retired police officers that changing the law on
murder or relying on judges to “ensure that prosecutors are using [the joint enterprise
law] properly”iii, the news media should look carefully at
□ policing tactics and how the crime was investigated,
□ the actual evidence used and whether it’s really sufficient to prove anything at all,
□ the prejudicial language which includes words like ‘gang’ and phrases like ‘wolf
packs’, derived from ideas introduced by the police, unchallenged in courts and
accepted by gullible judges, but based only on rumour and unreliable informers.
The cases Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association is concerned with do not
involve organised criminal gangs – just people gathered in the same place – or even just
in phone contact.
Joint enterprise law is being abused by police and prosecutors with the collaboration of
judges with the effect that many innocent people are being wrongly convicted of murder
in the course of attempts to net actual murderers.
This is only possible because joint enterprise law permits the use of poor quality
evidence and unwarranted inferences drawn from such evidence.
About Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association
Patron: Jimmy McGovern
JOINT ENTERPRISE: NOT GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION is a campaigning organisation that will
highlight such cases where joint enterprise law has been applied and those convicted are
stating they are not guilty of the index offence. We have been contacted by many
families and hundreds of prisoners alerting that they are serving lengthy sentences (life
for knife crime is minimum 25 year tariff and prisoners will always serve longer than the
minimum tariff) for something they did not do, could not have foreseen, did not have the
intention to do, and indeed in many cases tried to prevent from happening. JOINT
ENTERPRISE: NOT GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION will campaign on behalf of, and with those
wrongfully convicted.
For more information go to http://www.innocent.org.uk/jointenterprise.html#je
or phone 07709115793
email jointenterpriseinfo@gmail.com
i There is now a separate offence of encouragement to commit a crime (Serious Crime Act 2007
part 2).
ii Lord Blair wants to introduce American style plea bargaining. He said on the Today Programme
that they wanted “more young people who are involved in these crimes to turn queen’s evidence,
to give evidence for the prosecution about what happened in the knowledge that they were not
necessarily facing a life sentence. The whole idea of plea bargaining ... is very sensible...” But does
plea bargaining result in reliable evidence?
iii Diane Abbott MP, speaking on the Today programme.

JENGbA web page

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