JENGbA (Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association) is a grassroots campaign that was instrumental in helping The Supreme Court reach a landmark decision in February 2016 which acknowledged that Joint Enterprise had been misinterpreted by the courts for 32 years. This was a legal victory, vindication for all those who had campaigned that there was a serious problem with the law.
With this victory in mind we the now believe there are still serious issues that merit the full attention and support of Parliament. Hundreds of men, women and children are supported by JENGbA and we believe that rather than attempt to take each case independently to the Court of Appeal there should be an independent judicial inquiry. This is the only way to ensure that innocent people are not serving mandatory life sentences for crimes they did not commit. An inquiry of this sort would also uncover the magnitude of the flaws that JENGbA have been highlighting for many years and put balance and fairness back into the criminal justice system.
We intend to address a number of key issues in our relaunch in room 10 at the House of Commons on 15th November from 1pm-3pm.
Invitations have been sent to a cross party selection of MPs and members of the House of Lords and other interested parties. Many have already confirmed their attendance and interest in the topics of discussion that our panel will lead with.
Patrick Williams’s senior lecturer of criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University: Patrick will talk about the body of research on Joint Enterprise, racism and the gang narrative used by prosecutors.
Professor David Scott will discuss child lifers highlighting how we are one of the last remaining countries in Europe that has yet to outlaw life sentences for children. He will no doubt supply shocking statistics to the extent of this practice.
Matthew Stanbury Barrister at Garden Court Chambers Manchester- He will express the concerns that legal practitioner have in regard to the Court of Appeal and the difficulties faced by those appealing their convictions.
Lucy Powell MP will speak about her recent involvement with a case from Moss Side.
Simon Natas ITN Solicitor and JENGbA legal advisor he will speak about the reasons for relaunching the JENGbA campaign. (Please read Simon’s attached comment).
Adeel Khan was aged 15 when charged and later convicted of joint enterprise murder. He was not the perpetrator yet he was forced to serve his minimum tariff life sentence. Adeel will talk about how over a decade in prison for a murder he did not commit was not only harrowing but a pointless waste of his young life.
Comment from JENGbA lawyer Simon Natas
JENGbA was launched in 2010 with two broad aims:
1. To campaign for reform of the law of joint enterprise
2. To campaign for wrongful joint enterprise convictions to be overturned.
In 2016, the Supreme Court abolished the principal of parasitic accessorial liability, confirming that it had arisen as a result of a legal “wrong turn”.
The change in the law raised the possibility that many historic joint enterprise convictions would be quashed, but the Court of Appeal’s decision in Johnson has established such a high threshold for potential appellants that very few appeals are expected to succeed.
Having achieved success in its campaign to reform the law, but faced, at least for now, with the obstacle of Johnson, JENGbA may wish to consider how it builds on past successes and the campaigning momentum it has built up.
It is notable that in the years that it has spent campaigning on the issue of joint enterprise, JENGbA has become involved in other campaigns surrounding criminal justice, including the rights of prisoners, discriminatory policing and the unfairness of the mandatory life sentence. This is no accident – the issue of joint enterprise touches upon them all.
Following Jogee, JENGbA has continued to campaign on a range of criminal justice issues. However, it may be that JENGbA’s effectiveness as a campaigning organisation would now be enhanced if it gave itself a broader mission statement, i.e. a specific remit to campaign on issues across the criminal justice system (CJS).
These may include the following:
1. Reform of the homicide laws
3 tier homicide
In 2004, the Law Commission described the law of homicide as a “mess.” A wide-ranging consultation was launched which resulted in its 2006 report “Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide” which recommended a three-tier structure of homicide. In broad terms, the mandatory life sentence would be reserved for cases in which there was an intent to kill. In cases where there was intent to cause GBH, but not to kill, there would be no mandatory life sentence. Had this reform been enacted, it is likely that many defendants convicted of murder as secondary parties would not have received life sentences.
The Law Commission’s recommendations were not introduced but a future government might be persuaded to do so. They retain widespread support within the legal profession and academia.
Schedule 21 CJA
JENGbA has already campaigned for reform of this provision. Obviously, if the Law Commission’s reforms were introduced, Schedule 21 would have to be amended or abolished, but it could be reformed before any comprehensive change to the homicide laws.
Indeterminate sentences for children
The UK is now more or less the only European country which imposes life sentences on children (let alone mandatory life sentences), but there has been hardly any public debate about this state of affairs, let alone any campaign to reform the law. https://www.crin.org/en/home/campaigns/inhuman-sentencing/problem/life-imprisonment/life-imprisonment-children-europe
2. Rights of Appellants
Open Justice Initiative
The Centre for Criminal Appeals has proposed a number of reforms which JENGbA already supports: http://www.criminalappeals.org.uk/open-justice/
Reform to the Criminal Appeal Act
In 2015, the Justice Select Committee (JSC) recommended that the Law Commission should consider a statutory change which would allow the Court of Appeal to quash a conviction where it had serious doubts about the safety of the conviction even without fresh evidence or fresh legal argument. This could result in more unsafe convictions being quashed and more convictions being referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commision (CCRC) to the Court of Appeal.
3. Race Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System (CJS)
The Lammy Review has already reported on very serious disparities in sentencing outcomes for BME defendants in the CJS: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lammy-review-emerging-findings-published
The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies report (https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/publications/dangerous-associations-joint-enterprise-gangs-and-racism) argues that “Young black and minority ethnic people are disproportionately at the receiving end of a series of criminal justice practices, starting with police gang databases and concluding with disproportionate joint enterprise convictions”.
There is much scope to campaign for a change to these practices.
4. Rights of Prisoners
There are too many issues here to mention, but those which may be most relevant to JENGbA’s work are:
i) Rights of life prisoners maintaining innocence (including re-categorisation and parole)
ii) Legislation to secure release of IPP prisoners
It follows from the above that JENGbA would cease to be a single issue campaign and would instead become a more broadly based grass-roots campaign for reform of the Criminal Justice System (albeit that many of the reforms set out above are rather modest and in some cases are merely calls for changes already recommended by the Law Commission or the Justice Select Committee to be introduced!).
However, as set out above, JENGbA already campaigns on many of these issues. This may therefore feel like a natural evolution which would allow the campaign to pursue a number of defined objectives, all of which have the potential to benefit defendants either prosecuted or convicted of joint enterprise offences, but should also have a much wider impact.