Edge Hill University and I4P were pleased to welcome Jan Cunliffe to deliver a guest lecture to staff and students about the joint enterprise principle at a recent event which was sponsored by I4P. The legal origins of this common law principle date back for centuries, but thanks to the campaigning of JENGbA, Jan explained there is some renewed hope that its use will be overturned.
Joint enterprise cases involve crimes where more than one person is judged to have taken part. In these cases, criminal liability is attributed to all of those participants in that criminal activity. This means that the current evidence rules enable those who did not strike the fatal blow or pull the trigger can still be convicted of murder.
Jan Cunliffe is a co-founder of Joint Enterprise not Guilty by Association (JENGbA), a grassroots campaign group which openly opposes ‘the might of the legal establishment.’ Part of this involves the aim to overturn the joint enterprise principle and the mandatory life sentences which have been handed down to family members of the group.
Jan spoke passionately to a room full of staff and students and shared personal experiences of the joint enterprise principle. Her son, Jordan, was one of a group of young people who were convicted of the murder of Garry Newlove in 2007. Despite being a blind 15-year-old and not actually delivering the fatal blow, Jordan was nonetheless given a life sentence for murder due to the opinion that he might have known what his friends were going to do and he didn’t try to prevent them committing the crime.
This was a timely lecture by Jan, following a ruling by the Supreme Court two years ago that the joint enterprise principle has been applied incorrectly for decades. Since this time, Jan explained that JENGbA has been instrumental in keeping the debate in the public consciousness. This resulted in a House of Commons debate in January 2018 where MPs from different parties urged the government to scrap the principle. In fact, the Minister of Justice was the only speaker who did not want to review the current application of joint enterprise.
Following a relaunch of JENGbA in November 2017, Jan is renewed is her efforts to travel the length and breadth of the country to share her experiences and raise awareness of the miscarriage of justice which is joint enterprise. It seems that the controversy over the application of this principle is not likely to go away soon.
Ben Hughes is a Graduate Teaching Assistant/PhD student in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at Edge Hill University.