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Conservative MP Believes Joint Enterprise Laws in Murder Cases Need Strengthening

A Labour MP has tabled a private member’s bill on joint enterprise in murder cases but a Tory MP said in fact the law ‘doesn’t go far enough.’

A Conservative MP has told a debate in Parliament on the law of joint enterprise murder that it “doesn’t actually go far enough” as the government indicated it would oppose a private member’s bill.

Joint enterprise is a 300-year-old legal principle which states that if a group set out on a course of action—for example murder—then they are all equally guilty of that crime, even if only one of them stabs or shoots the victim.

Kim Johnson, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, has tabled a private member’s bill in Parliament which would restrict the circumstances in which the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) could use joint enterprise to bring murder charges.

Last month Jan Cunliffe, co-founder of the campaign group JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Guilty by Association), told The Epoch Times they were confident the law would soon be amended.
But during a debate on the bill in Parliament on Friday, Tory MP Philip Davies said, “In many regards, the law on joint enterprise doesn’t actually go far enough.”

Mr. Davies, who represents Shipley in West Yorkshire, said he opposed Ms. Johnson’s bill and added: “I take the view that joint enterprise works reasonably well at the moment. However … it has sometimes failed to get convictions where it should, rather than the other way around.”

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He said the threshold for people being convicted of murder under the joint enterprise principle was “very high” and added, “They must intend to assist or encourage the commission of the crime and therefore must know of the existing fact necessary to make it criminal.”

“If the crime requires the principal to have a particular intent then the secondary must intend to assist or encourage the principal to act with that intent,” added Mr. Bacon.

He said a 2016 Supreme Court judgment made a “narrow” change to the law but it had been “widely misunderstood as meaning that all convictions under joint enterprise would now be found not guilty on appeal.”

Earlier in the debate Ms. Johnson, referring to the opinions of JENGbA, told MPs: “In their own words, this is a miscarriage of justice on the same scale as the Post Office Horizon scandal… People are being sent to prison for crimes they did not commit.”

In 2016 Ameen Jogee, a drug dealer in Leicester, appealed up to the Supreme Court after he was convicted, under joint enterprise, of murdering a man despite being outside the house where his friend, Mohammed Hirsi, stabbed the victim.

The Supreme Court ruled “the common law took a wrong turn” in 1985 when it “allowed secondary parties to be convicted on the basis of mere foresight of an offence.”

But Ms. Johnson said the 2016 judgment had had “little or no effect” on the number of joint enterprise charges or convictions.

‘Joint Enterprise Is … a Blunt Instrument’

She said, “Joint enterprise is currently wielded as a blunt instrument by the courts, allowing people who have not made a significant contribution to a murder to receive a mandatory life sentence.”


‘Joint Enterprise Is … a Blunt Instrument’

She said, “Joint enterprise is currently wielded as a blunt instrument by the courts, allowing people who have not made a significant contribution to a murder to receive a mandatory life sentence.”

“Lawyers and campaigners often refer to it as Russian roulette in terms of who is prosecuted or sentenced for life. My bill seeks to enshrine in law that only where a person is proven to have significantly contributed to a crime can they be prosecuted under joint enterprise,” she added.

The second reading of the bill was adjourned until June 21 and Ms. Johnson said she hoped the government would reconsider its opposition to the legislation.

PA Media contributed to this report.

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