Joint enterprise murder convictions judged unsound

All those who have been unjustly jailed should be freed, and should be compensated for their lost years.

Proletarian writers

Proletarian writers

On 18 February, the Supreme Court made a historical ruling on joint enterprise– the law that has been used to put so many working-class and ethnic-minority youth behind bars for crimes that they didn’t commit.

The case that brought the ruling was an appeal by Ameen Hassan Jogee. Jogee was convicted back in 2012 under joint enterprise for the murder of Paul Fyfe. It was said that he had egged on his friend, Mohammed Hirsi, who went on to strike a lethal blow to Mr Fyfe.

Jogee was outside the house when Fyfe was stabbed – with a knife Hirsi picked up in the house and which Jogee couldn’t possibly have known about. Although both Jogee and his friend intended to hurt Mr Fyfe, there was no evidence that Jogee intended him to be killed.However, on the basis of the joint enterprise law,he was found to be just as guilty of murder as his friend.

Under joint enterprise, people have been convicted because they were deemed to have known that it was possible a crime might occur – even though there was no proof they even wanted the crime to take place, and despite the fact that they certainly did not take part in it. The Supreme Court has now stated that this interpretation of the law of joint enterprise is wrong.

The court’s press release summarised its decision: “The correct rule is that foresight is simply evidence (albeit sometimes strong evidence) of intent to assist or encourage [the commission of a crime], which is the proper mental element for establishing secondary liability.”

This means that it should no longer be enough to simply be at the scene of a crime, possibly realising that a crime might take place.In future, for someone to be convicted, the prosecution will have to prove that the person in question intended this crime to take place.

Some 600 young working-class people, coming disproportionately from ethnic-minority backgrounds, are presently languishing in prison, serving life sentences because they happened to be around in situations in which the possibility of a murder occurring was judged by a court to have been ‘foreseeable’.

A person in that situation was, before the Supreme Court’s decision, found to be as guilty of murder as the actual perpetrator, and therefore subject to a mandatory life sentence.Even a person who foresaw there might be trouble and ran away home not wanting to be involved in it could find himself banged up for life if it was judged to have been foreseeable by him that a murder might be perpetrated in his absence!

This interpretation of the law, under which so many young people have been so unjustly convicted, has now been declared to be wrong.We expect to see more people who were wrongly convicted under this outdated law make appeals for their convictions to be overturned.

This, however, will involve them and their families in great expense that many simply cannot afford.What actually needs to happen is that, without any cost to the defendants, all cases of conviction for murder under joint enterprise should be reviewed, and all those who were convicted by a jury that was told to find them guilty merely on the basis of foresight should automatically be not only released but given compensation for their lost years.

These individuals, who are overwhelmingly young and working class, must get the justice they deserve. Let nobody tolerate a bourgeois justice that wreaks working-class injustice!