WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
February 29 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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New report estimates £250m spent a year on joint enterprise prosecutions

New report estimates £250m spent a year on joint enterprise prosecutions

The annual cost of processing joint enterprise cases could be close to £250m every year, according to a new briefing looking at the financial burden of ‘misapplying’ the controversial legal doctrine.

As his previously been reported on the Justice Gap, there are concerns that police and prosecution have recommitted and, indeed, ramped up the use of joint enterprise since the landmark 2016 Supreme Court ruling that the law had taken ‘a wrong turn’ in Jogee. At the end of last year the CPS finally released race data on joint enterprise prosecutions revealing Black people are 16 times more likely to be charged under JE. Two academics Becky Clarke and Patrick Williams from Manchester Metropolitan University have drawn attention the huge cost to the taxpayer of the continued misapplication of the law and the racial disproportionality.

The authors estimate the cost of ‘processing and punishing homicide for a single defendant is £1.4m. ‘When using joint enterprise for every additional defendant to be processed and punished it costs £1.3m,’ they argue. Drawing on research from the recent CPS pilot,  they argue an average of 3.6 defendants per case. ‘It costs £4.6m to process and punish a typical joint enterprise homicide or attempted homicide case,’ they continue. Drawing upon CPS data to estimate current scale of JE use, they reckon each year 1,360 defendants processed with 1088 convicted and punished. This, they say, means annual cost to process defendants is £242m; and ‘the future cost to punish for those convicted in a one year period’ could be as much as £1,210m.

  • You can read Becky Clark and Patrick Williams’s report The Mounting Costs of Injustice (here)

Kim Johnson MP has tabled a private members bill to limit the application of joint enterprise so that only those who make a ‘significant contribution’ to a crime will be prosecuted. ‘If the social cost of joint enterprise wasn’t conclusive, the economic cost must be the final nail in the coffin for this shocking miscarriage of justice,’ the Labour MP for Riverside commented. ‘It has been a decade since the evidence was first presented to Parliament. Yet our prisons are dangerously overflowing and the taxpayer is still footing the bill for thousands of people who have been wrongly jailed for the crime of another. If someone does not make a significant contribution to a crime they should not be prosecuted for it. It’s as simple as that.’ The second reading of the bill tabled is scheduled for Friday .

Clarke and Williams argue that their findings about the economic cost is ‘even more concerning when we consider the unequal
use of JE prosecutions against children and young people, women and racialised communities’. ‘CPS data estimates that 14% of defendants prosecuted using JE are children. Beyond the serious moral questions this raises, each year it will cost £14.5 million to imprison these 95 children. For women who are convicted under JE, the economic costs of punishment are high, as are the costs for their children and families. For minority ethnic people, the costs of disparity and unequal treatment across the CJS of England and Wales have been estimated to be £309 million a year.’

‘Over many years, we have collectively demonstrated the impact of the injustice of joint enterprise punishments on prisoners, their families and wider communities,’ said Becky Clarke. ‘We are now closer to getting a sense of the scale of this injustice, allowing us to understand the mounting economic costs. It is staggering to see how many individuals are pulled into this net of joint enterprise and what it costs the taxpayer. We desperately need an honest conversation with those in power about the harms and costs of this flawed legal and policy response to violence.’