In a recent PSHE presentation at school, Year 9 students listened to an ex-prisoner describe the boredom he experienced whilst enduring a custodial sentence (in prison) for murder. At some stage the presenter described the law of joint enterprise, and explained to the students how dangerous this law was for people especially if they were parts of gangs.
So what is joint enterprise?
Under the doctrine of joint enterprise, a person who assists or encourages the committing of a crime can be held as legally responsible as the person who actually carries it out.
In cases of murder, an individual can be convicted of murder if they foresaw that the person they were with would “possibly” kill or inflict serious harm.
In RS GCSE when we look at Section 4 Crime and Punishment in Unit 8, and in the History GCSE, we learn the case of Derek Bentley who was hanged for murder in 1953 even though he’d not fired the shot which killed Pc Miles. Bentley had been sentenced to death on 11 December for killing Pc Miles during a bungled break-in at a warehouse in Croydon, Surrey. The court was told his co-defendant, Christopher Craig, fired the fatal shot but because he was still a juvenile in the eyes of the law he escaped the death sentence and was ordered to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure.
Well today the Supreme Court has stated that it was not right that someone could be convicted of murder if they merely foresaw that the person they were with might commit a crime. They have emphasised that they had to intend to help carry out, or encourage, the crime that actually resulted. This huge judgement by the Supreme Court basically means that in the coming weeks and months numerous people who are currently serving sentences in prison may try to launch appeals against their convictions. Keep your eyes out for more mention of Joint Enterprise in the news.