Prisoners can now appeal murder sentences
The law on joint enterprise has been misapplied for the past 30 years, the Supreme Court ruled last week, meaning some prisoners could now lodge appeals. The BBC called it a “moment of genuine legal history”.
There has been much speculation since that hundreds of prisoners convicted using the law will now be released. But is that what will really happen?
A mother, aunt and daughter talk about their loved ones being unjustly jailed
Prison can seem like an abstract concept until a loved one is thrown in jail. It’s even worse if they believe that person is truly innocent.
Families of prisoners march to 10 Downing Street to make their voices heard
A passionate and persuasive call for reform of an unfair law
Every month a group of women gather in a back room at a community centre on a council estate in south London. The children running about and the Brazilian drumming band next door don’t pay much attention to them, but someone is listening.
And it’s not just anyone. Powerful members of parliament are sitting up and paying attention to what they are saying. Through sheer determination and hard work, the women have managed to put reform of the joint enterprise law firmly on the political agenda.
Five case studies show how guilt by association can lead to miscarriages of justice.
The joint enterprise law allows more than one person to be charged and convicted of the same crime. It can often be a case of being “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
A defendant can be convicted of murder even if they had no intention of causing serious harm and didn’t take a direct part in the crime. We explained how the law worked and why it is controversial last week.
There have been many high-profile cases over the years, but below are five of the most famous. Do you think the people below should have been given long life sentences?
A complex and controversial law is being used to jail many ethnic minority and poor people. Many say it is unjust.
Is it really possible that a law originally devised to stop aristocrats from dueling is now being used to lock up working class people and ethnic minorities?
The law is called joint enterprise. Three hundred years ago it was used to charge doctors and others attending a duel with murder along with the duelists themselves. Now it is mostly used against ‘gangs’ in urban areas.
But many people from judges to MPs to QCs to campaigners say it’s an unjust law that targets the most marginalised sections of society and leads to miscarriages of justice.