Preliminary Information Pack / letter / email / website page
This will be modified and finalised following the initial meeting in Sheffield on 3 March 2012. Your opinion on anything written below would be valued.
Joint enterprise is the short term for a legal 'doctrine' according to which anyone who joins with another person to commit a crime, is equally responsible for any crime that comes within the scope of that enterprise: the lookout in a robbery is as guilty of robbery as the people who enter premises and steal money or goods. The more controversial part of the doctrine says that anyone who joins a criminal enterprise is responsible for any crime that is committed in the course of the enterprise, even if it is far more serious than the planned crime, as long as he or she foresaw that such a crime might be committed.
What NJEC plans to do
We would assess cases for their eligibility. This depends on two matters:
- That the person seeking our help (the applicant) has been convicted through use of the joint enterprise law (see above) rather than a similar law such as conspiracy or any other law. The words 'joint enterprise' or 'common purpose' should appear in the trial summing up, applied specifically to the applicant as a defendant.
- That the person claims to be innocent of the crime of which she or he is convicted, under the law as it stands at the time of the conviction.
This means that we would be prepared to help people who may be guilty of a less serious offence than the offence of which they were convicted (such as theft rather than murder).
We will consider cases where the law may have been applied unjustly, such as those in which prosecution evidence appears to be clearly inadequate.
But we would not be able to help people who are guilty of a serious crime according to the law, however unfair we may think the law is: for example, people who play a minor part in a crime but know that the crime is going to take place.
We would next assess whether we can offer assistance with the applicant's case. We may either work on the case ourselves, or we may refer it to another organisation if we think that organisation could do more to help than we can. We may continue to work on a case together with another organisation, such as a university student innocence project.
We would keep all applicants informed about the progress of their case and we would seek their approval, suggestions and permission before undertaking any important work or referring their case to another organisation. By 'applicants' we mean applicants and their families or other supporters acting with the consent of the applicants.
How quickly we can work and respond to applications depends on how many applications we receive and how many competent people we can find to join our team. We cannot make any promises about how quickly we will respond, and if we cannot handle cases for practical reasons, we will tell people honestly what the problem is.
All applications, supporting material and any fresh material we obtain will be treated as confidential, unless we have obtained permission from applicants to share the material or use it for agreed publicity purposes. But it should be noted that none of the casework team are qualified lawyers and none of our communications are legally privileged.
This is a free service. We will not ask applicants, their families or their supporters for money to support the work we do. If we find additional sources of help, such as experts and lawyers, we will aim to find these at no cost to applicants. We believe that innocent victims of miscarriages of justice should not have to pay to put right the mistakes of the criminal justice system. In our experience, casework takes a lot of time but does not need much money. We hope to obtain some help from sympathetic organisations.
Who we are
Andrew has 20 years' experience of analysing miscarriage of justice cases, many of them involving joint enterprise. He works mainly with INNOCENT on appeals and applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, with some successes. He is Chairperson of United Against Injustice and Deputy Director of the University of Sheffield School of Law Innocence Project. His PhD was awarded for a thesis on the construction of wrongful convictions. He is the author of Power Resistance Knowledge: the Epistemology of Policing.
Ange has been involved with United Against Injustice for over 8 years, and has been part of the planning and running of the National UAI days on the last five occasions, including chairing the meeting in Birmingham in 2011. She is an active member of Innocent and Yorkshire and Humberside against Injustice and will consult with members privately if they are nervous of speaking in a group. Ange is a qualified plumber and plumbing instructor and taught a practical plumbing course in HMP Ranby for two and a half years.
Ashleigh campaigns on behalf of her brother Jordan Towers, who was wrongly convicted under Joint Enterprise for murder. For the past 5 years she has worked hard to progress Jordan's case. She is part of team that has secured a Judicial Review in the near future for Jordan, which hopefully will lead to an appeal against his conviction. Ashleigh has experience in working closely with solicitors, advising them and attending meetings. She has experience with CCRC applications and extensive knowledge of Joint Enterprise and Human Rights law. Ashleigh lobbied the Government on the yourGov website in relation to Joint Enterprise which played a crucial part in Lord Ouseley raising the subject with Parliament, and which played a significant role in the Parliamentary Justice Committee's decision to inquire into the Joint Enterprise doctrine. Ashleigh also has experience in advising others on various subjects in relation to the law where a miscarriage of justice has occurred and will give any case she works on as much hard work and dedication as she has given her brother's and others alike.
Currently campaigning on behalf of her son Wesley Porter wrongly convicted under joint enterprise for murder. Audra has experience liaising with solicitors and communicating with appropriate contacts for advice and information on various specialist aspects of a given case. What she doesn't know herself, she seeks to find out, and is never afraid to draw on the knowledge of others in the team. The compassion and commitment she shows in her 9-5 job is evident in the work she does for others suffering injustice. Founder member of AIM (Against Injustice Merseyside) and represents it at United Against Injustice (UAI).
Billy founded the Wrongly Accused Person organisation in 2009 following his own experience with the justice system. He has been reviewing cases ever since and where appropriate helping people highlight their plights to in a way capable of changing public opinion with some success. Many are Joint Enterprise case. He has assisted with appeals and applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission liaising with solicitors, expert witnesses and the Media.
Sandra Lean has 9 years experience of investigating and researching wrongful convictions. She works with individuals and families, as well as professionals in the legal and voluntary sectors, assisting with appeals and applications to the S/CCRC. A PhD candidate, funded by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) at Stirling University, she is about to submit a thesis on the gap between public perceptions of the CJS and its actual operations. She has a specialist paralegal qualification in criminal law and is the author of No Smoke; The Shocking Truth about British Justice. Sandra is a trustee of the charity organisation Wrongly Accused Person.
Each member of the team will take on a case load that she or he thinks is practical. Casework will be discussed regularly with other team members, who will support and learn from each other. If a case is taken on by a member who appears to be less experienced than others, that case will be reviewed to the same standard as any other case through these sharing and consultation arrangements.
We intend to use the information contained in the cases for research purposes, to be carried out by members of the casework team. From the outset the team will include scholars (see above) who have a track record of qualitative research into miscarriage of justice cases, and who, like the rest of the team, have personal experience of involvement in joint enterprise cases that have led to the conviction of innocent people.
We will only use cases for research purposes with the clear permission of those whose cases they are. We will only identify the persons concerned if they wish us to do so.
We will use the information from the cases to discover how the use of the joint enterprise law by police, prosecutors and judges leads to the conviction of innocent people. We will aim to explain how the law has been developed with the result that it now has these effects, exposing the root cause of the problems we find in the cases.
We hope to attract funding for our research, which may be carried out by individuals who are members of our casework team and in conjunction with an established university department.
Our research results will be made freely available for everyone to use. We hope that they will be used to change how the general public view joint enterprise prosecutions, through media coverage that is more sympathetic to the victims' point of view.
We hope that judges and prosecutors will become more aware of how easily injustice can occur in joint enterprise prosecutions, and take steps to prevent injustices. As a result, the police will have to work harder and better to find out who really is guilty.
We hope that when politicians change the law, they will be better informed about the dangers of the present law, and make better law as a consequence.