The Supreme Court has this morning ruled that Joint Enterprise cases have been wrongly interpreted for the last 30 years, based on flawed readings of two key cases – Chan Wing-Siu v The Queen [1985 1 AC 168 and Regina v Powell and English  1 AC 1.
The premise of Joint Enterprise is the automatic assumption that all parties are jointly and equally guilty to all parts of a criminal enterprise. It’s a very unfair position, has been used to penalise people with no connection to the original crime and has been shown to have a strong racial bias in the number of BAME prisoners in jail because of the Joint Enterprise doctrine and the assumption of gang activity.
From the judgement summary:
“The unanimous conclusion of the court is that Chan Wing-Siu and Powell and English did take a wrong turning and these appeals should therefore be allowed. The correct rule is that foresight is simply evidence (albeit sometimes strong evidence) of intent to assist or encourage, which is the proper mental element for establishing secondary liability.”
There are many cases available on this site and elsewhere that perfectly express the horrible injustice and unfairness brought about by the concept of joint enterprise:
- 15 year old Philip English was originally convicted of the murder of a policeman. The fatal blow was dealt by his partner whilst English was under arrest, restrained by police officers on a different street to the one where the murder took place: see https://innocentorguk.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/teenager-convicted-of-stabbing-officer-to-death-whilst-handcuffed-1994/
- Wesley Porter from Liverpool, who took a car for a test drive, decided not to buy it and was then sentenced to 27 years for murder when the same came was later used in a shooting; see: http://justice4wesley.wronglyaccusedperson.org.uk/
This is an historic ruling and everyone at INNOCENT would like to congratulate everyone involved in the fight that has culminated in this ruling. We look forward to the inevitable rush of appeals that this ruling should bring, and the release of those who have suffered a miscarriage of justice as a result.
Let’s hope that the next injustice that gets corrected is the absurd ruling over who qualifies for compensation as a result of being wrongly imprisoned. At the moment anyone who is in prison and released under today’s decision will not be automatically eligible for compensation for having their lives taken away. The Ministry of Justice has ruled that simply having your conviction quashed is not enough – they expect innocence to be proven at the same time, which is a foreign concept to the courts who simply deal in guilty and not guilty.
But that’s a future fight. For today, let’s rejoice with this news and look forward to the time soon when many families who will be able to get their lives back.
For full details of the Supreme Court ruling, please visit their website: