WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
July 13 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Joint enterprise convictions at highest rate in a decade

Joint enterprise convictions at highest rate in a decade

Sketch by Isobel Williams

Joint enterprise convictions have risen to the highest rate in 10 years, despite a Supreme Court decision criticising the doctrine’s ‘overextension’.

Almost 1,000 people have been charged and over 600 convicted since 2019 under the highly controversial joint enterprise doctrine in England and Wales. 36% of murder charges, and 28% of murder convictions, were those of ‘secondary participants’ under joint enterprise.

A decade ago, only 19% of murder convictions were under joint enterprise. The increase comes despite the Supreme Court decision in Jogee in 2016, which said the law had taken a ‘wrong turn’, and use of joint enterprise was ‘overextended’ to include those who had minimal involvement or limited knowledge of the crime.

These disproportionately affect young Black men: 31% of secondary convictions are of Black people, despite their comprising 3.7% of the population. Nearly 93% of all joint enterprise defendants are male, with 14% aged 14-17 and 40% aged 18-24.

One recent case involved the tragic killing of teenage boy Kennie Carter in Manchester. Four teenagers were found guilty, including one who wielded the knife and three others who had no weapons or active role in the murder. Critics argue that such prosecutions criminalise mere presence at a crime scene, punishing young people who may not have fully understood the consequences of their actions.

Helen Mills of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies highlights the ongoing issues with the doctrine. ‘The laws regarding joint enterprise are still vague, wide in scope, operate without clear thresholds, and have racialised outcomes…they over-criminalise and over-punish, particularly young Black men and boys.’

Labour MP Kim Johnson has been a vocal proponent of reform in Parliament, proposing a bill in February which sought to amend the law and limit liability to those making a significant contribution to a crime. At the time, the government rejected the bill, citing difficulties in directing juries and securing convictions. The Labour frontbench indicated a willingness to review the doctrine’s laws should they come to power.

However, it was the Conservative manifesto that received praise from Felicity Gerry KC, a leading critic of joint enterprise, who spoke to the Justice Gap. The Labour manifesto made no mention of the joint enterprise doctrine or the potential to review the laws surrounding it.

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