Law On Joint Enterprise 'Wrong' Says Supreme Court

20th February, 2016, in Supreme Court, Joint Enterprise, Criminal Law.


If someone was convicted under the principle of ‘joint enterprise’ that is, not that they carried out a crime themselves, but rather they were together with others who did, and the question is whether and to what extent they participated, the Supreme Court delivered a judgment on 18th February 2016 in the case of R v Jogee [2016] UKSC 8 which said that the law for the past 30 years was wrong.

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So what has changed? What is the impact on past convictions?

For a defendant to be convicted of a crime on a joint enterprise basis, it has been enough for the past 30 years in cases, including murder, that the defendant foresaw the possibility that the principal to the crime was going to commit it. The Supreme Court have said that this is an error and that the law has taken a wrong turn. The test, the Supreme Court have ruled, was not foresight but rather “intent to assist”. It said in its ruling:

“The error was to equate foresight with intent to assist, as a matter of law; the correct approach is to treat it as evidence of intent."

This is a re-statement of a law over three decades old and has ground-breaking consequences. So how might it apply? The Supreme Court gave an example:

If a person is a party to a violent attack on another, without an intent to assist in the causing of death or really serious harm, but the violence escalates and results in death, he will be not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.”

This will affect a large number of cases, where either a defendant has been convicted following trial, or advised to plead guilty based on the law as it had been since 1984. The principle applies, as the court gave examples, to all manner of offences from theft to murder. There is a route open to those to redress previous convictions in cases where they can demonstrate substantial injustice.

If individuals are affected, the most important first step is to get expert advice from a specialist barrister as both to the substance of the new law and the procedural test.

If you or someone you know might have been affected by this recent change in the law, or you want to register an interest, click to contact us now

or call 0800 222 9998 to speak to a member of our team.

Read our more detailed article here.



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