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Why is joint enterprise in the news?

The Supreme Court is the highest court in England and Wales. By a judgment handed down on 18th February 2016 the Supreme Court has decided that the law on joint enterprise has been incorrectly stated since 1984.

What was the law on joint enterprise?

The law was (and still is) that where 2 people are acting together to commit a crime, they are both equally responsible even if it is clear that one of them did the criminal act, and the other was involved in a supporting or secondary role. Since 1984 the courts have been ruling that this means that it is enough for the secondary player to have foreseen that the crime which actually happened was a possibility, even if that crime is far different from the crime that was originally planned.

What’s so bad about that view of joint enterprise?

The problem has arisen in cases where foresight of an outcome has resulted in the conviction of a secondary player, even where there is no evidence that the secondary player wanted that result.

What does the new judgment say about joint enterprise?

The Lords sitting in the Supreme Court have now re-stated the principle in terms that make it clear that the secondary party can only be convicted if the jury (or magistrate court) is satisfied that the secondary party had an intent to commit an offence, even if it is not the same intent as the main offender.

So there will be a lot of people appealing against convictions that were wrong?

A lot will want to, but there it won’t be easy.. If the court that returned the original  conviction acted properly and applied the law correctly as it was understood at the time, it will be necessary to apply for exceptional leave to appeal out of time. The Court of Appeal is unlikely to give that permission unless it can be shown that “substantial injustice” has been demonstrated. It is not enough just to show that the original court would now be obliged to come to a different decision.

What can I do if I have been wrongly convicted in the past?

You need to consult a solicitor as soon as possible. To speak to an experienced, knowledgeable and understanding criminal defence solicitor today, call us on the telephone numbers below. Bray & Bray have three main offices across Leicestershire, feel free to phone or pop in to talk to our solicitors.