On 18 February 2016 the highest court in England and Wales, the Supreme Court, corrected the law on “joint enterprise” which they said has been wrong for the last 30 years. This means that since the 1985 hundreds if not thousands of people may have been wrongly convicted before the Courts, not because the Court hearing the the case got it wrong but simply because the law was wrong. This was described by the Supreme Court in R v Jogee as a “wrong turn” which may not give much comfort to those who were incorrectly convicted.
Whilst joint enterprise can apply to most offences committed where more than one person takes part in the crime, it was most commonly something which has seen many people convicted of murder when they were not the person who inflicted the fatal act of violence. The only requirement before this change took place was that the secondary party could have foreseen that the other person would have committed murder and so they themselves never had any intention to commit this offence. The change now means that the secondary party must intend that the offence is carried out.
The Supreme Court however warned that whilst the law was incorrect it does not mean that convictions would necessarily be unsafe but where there has been injustice the Courts’ do have the power to grant exceptional leave to enable unsafe convictions to be overturned.
All cases will depend upon the facts but this will cause some people who are serving life sentences for murder when they did not carry out the fatal blow to review their position to see whether they have been wrongly convicted.
At Lester Morrill we have already identified a number of murder cases which will require a full review following this change in direction of the law. If either you or a family member has been convicted of any offence where joint enterprise was an issue but particularly in murder convictions, legal advice should be sought and our team at Lester Morrill’s are happy to assist even if we did not act during the original trial.