Joint enterprise: The law has changed, can I appeal my conviction?

Emery Johnson Astills solicitors in Leicester discuss the recent change in joint enterprise law.

The doctrine of joint enterprise can apply where two or more people are involved in an offence. So for example, you may not have pulled the trigger on the gun that killed the victim, but because you were involved in the offence, you are equally as guilty as the person that did.

The person involved in an offence where joint enterprise applies is either a principal or an accessory/accomplice (secondary party). The person that carries out the conduct element of the offence for example, pulls the trigger on the gun, is referred to as the principal. The person that assists or encourages the principal to commit the offence is known as the secondary party. The mental element of a secondary party is that when encouraging or assisting, the individual intended to encourage or to assist the commission of the crime committed by the principal. The intent does not necessarily have to be in relation to a specific offence but could be in relation to a range of offences. It should be noted that in joint enterprise cases, there can be more than one principal and more than one secondary party.

Under the joint enterprise law, the secondary party can be prosecuted for the same offence as the principal. The doctrine has been used as a way to prosecute gangs of young men, especially where a murder is concerned. The doctrine has been thought of as highly controversial, as it lowers the burden of proof for the Prosecution.

In the Supreme Court last week, in the appeal of Jogee and Ruddock, the Court ruled that the law was in fact wrong. As a result of the judgement, it is apparent that for thirty years, some individuals have been convicted of crimes on the basis that they foresaw that an individual may commit a crime and they were engaged with that individual by way of joint enterprise.

How has the law been interpreted for the last 30 years?

Let’s take murder as an example. With the offence of murder the principal must intend to kill or cause serious harm. If the secondary party merely foresaw that death or serious injury was a possibility, that party would be equality as guilty as the individual that intended to kill or cause serious harm and that individual if convicted, would be convicted of the same offence.

In the cases of R v Powell and R v English which took place in 1991, the Court stated that mere foresight or contemplation of an act as a possible incident of the enterprise was enough to impose criminal liability for the act carried out by the principal.

How has the law changed since the Supreme Court Judgement in Jogee and Ruddock?

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that joint enterprise law has been wrongly interpreted, how will it be interpreted? Having a foresight or contemplation of an act as a possible incident of the enterprise is not enough to impose criminal liability. The individual must have intended to encourage or to assist the commission of the crime (or a range of crimes) committed by the principal. Although foresight that the incident may occur may be strong evidence that the individual intended to encourage or assist the principal in carrying out an offence, it is no longer the test.

I was convicted of an offence on the basis of joint enterprise. Can I appeal my conviction?

Not all convictions that are a result of joint enterprise law will be invalid. The Court will be slow to interfere in cases where an appropriate direction was given by the Judge to the jury in a trial. If you are appealing a conviction and you are out of time, then you will have to apply to seek exceptional leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal and you will have to demonstrate that there has been substantial injustice. It will not be enough to state that the law that was applied has been deemed incorrect.

If you wish to discuss a conviction which has arisen out of joint enterprise law, then you may wish to contact the Crime Team at Emery Johnson Astills solicitors in Leicester. Again, if you have been charged with an offence and it relates to a joint enterprise, Emery Johnson Astills would be more than happy to assist you. Please do not hesitate to contact us on 0116 2554855.