sam hallam 2A Labour government would look again at the controversial law of Joint Enterprise. In a letter to a prisoner serving life for murder in HMP Durham, Ed Miliband has signalled his party’s intention to take another look at the complex doctrine which enables defendants to be found guilty of a killing even if they did not deliver the fatal blow.

In a letter to a constituent Ambrose Dear, the leader of the opposition acknowledged the campaign to reform the law. ‘I know that JENGbA have helped raise awareness of this issue over the years and I can assure you that I will follow this closely,’ he wrote. ‘ Back in 2o14, brothers Ambrose and Michael Dear were each convicted by a jury of murdering 57-year-old Sidney Cox as well as conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm to another man Benjamin Reynolds. They were each sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 18 years in custody minus time on remand. Ambrose Dear claims to not have been at the scene of the crime.

In his response to Dear, Miliband, who is MP for Doncaster North, noted that JENGbA and many joint enterprise families were calling for an ‘urgent review’ of the doctrine and that, despite similar calls from the House of Commons’ Justice Committee in 2012 and in a follow-up report in December 2014, the Government has declined such a review.

‘I believe it is vital that all prosecutions, particularly in cases which carry a high mandatory sentence like murder, are carried out in a fair and balanced manner. I also believe it is important that it is the independent Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service that consider whether a prosecution should be pursued under joint enterprise and that a jury is then able to consider all relevant information prior to this to deciding whether to convict.’
Ed Miliband

Some 10,000 people have now signed JENGbA’s petition against joint enterprise which was handed in to Number 10 by campaigners include JENGbA patron Jimmy McGovern. The Liberal Democrat manifesto has a pledge to introduce a Freedoms Act which would include reform of joint enterprise.

In a previous interview with, McGovern said:

‘Joint enterprise needs to be reformed but it’s the case of murder, murder needs reforming – how we treat murder – if you don’t reform that, there will always be injustice. You assist in the tiniest way and you do life, the man who pulled the trigger also does life.’

In response to the petition the Ministry of Justice said:

Joint enterprise law has enabled some of the most serious offenders to be brought to justice. It ensures that if a crime is committed by two or more people, all those involved can potentially be charged and convicted of that offence.’

The MoJ went on to explain that although they had ‘considered the Justice Committee’s recommendations carefully’, it would ‘not be appropriate’ to launch a review of the law before the end of the Parliament.

Gloria Morrison, campaign co-ordinator at JENGbA, said that ‘the chinks in the megalith’ that is joint enterprise were ‘starting to show’.

Profile photo of Bracken Stockley About Bracken Stockley
Bracken is police and crime reporter for Winchester News Online and student at the University of Winchester

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  • George Gretton April 24, 2015 7:24 am

    Quick question here, Bracken …..

    … that needs clarifying …

    Are you objecting to the very PRINCIPLE of holding co-conspirators to account, or to the PRACTICAL DIFFICULTIES of its implementation?

    That there are risks around, and both human fallibility and corruption, does not necessitate that we walk away from doing what is right in principle. I note that I am a Death Penalty Person…

    When in January 2012 I undertook open heart surgery, I accepted a 5% risk of death and permanent kidney failure … had I not done so I would not be sitting here today …

    If it’s a principle issue, then let’s not throw away the baby with the bathwater …. Justice cannot be applied without risks, and / but the greater good has to prevail over individual cases…

    I am also very closely involved with child protection… thus the interest in restoring Capital Punishment, risks of mistake and all..


    George Nemesis …aka George Gretton

  • Rosemarie Leclerc April 24, 2015 8:44 am

    Encouraging news but has to be treated with caution. The growing use of Joint Enterprise in English & Welsh courts happened when Labour was in government. If it wasn’t for JENGbA, Justice Gap, and the hard work of several legal professionals and academics, Joint Enterprise would not even be on the radar. The Justice Select Committee has pushed law reform up the political agenda but there is strong opposition to overcome. The police and CPS have been able to use Joint Enterprise as a trawl net to prosecute and incarcerate in a way that smacks of “Judicial Cleansing”. The old arguments of “Gangs” are trotted out but joint murder prosecutions of only 2 people are the majority, while 3 or more jointly tried becomes progressively rarer as numbers go up.

    There is another powerful group who will want the higher murder conviction rate maintained – the Private Prison industry run by SERCO, SODEXO, and G4S. They do very nicely out of Joint Enterprise at great cost to the public purse, never mind the human misery to unjustly over-convicted, their loved ones and friends. The directors and shareholders of these companies profit from the denial of liberty for those unfairly sentenced to life but there has been no mention of Private Prisons in the recent legislative attempts to curb “Modern Slavery”.

    Mr Milliband will have to do a lot more than promise to “look again”. History is not on Labour’s side where the legal stain of Joint Enterprise is concerned.

  • Christopher Lennon July 1, 2015 7:48 pm

    What a damp squib that was! Miliband – who he?
    Joint Enterprise is an established legal doctrine, well on the radar where it matters. It won’t be overturned on a wing and a prayer.
    The best hope of moderating JE (NB not ‘abolishing’, because that won’t happen)would be by a ruling from the Supreme Court; a new precedent, as two distinguished academics, Professors Wilson and Ormerod, have pointed out.
    By the way Rosemary, your comment that companies running private or contracted prisons have an interest in upping the conviction rate to benefit their shareholders is really unworthy and a disgrace. If you write arrant nonsense, you will drive potential supporters away.

  • Rose Leclerc July 2, 2015 6:02 pm

    I am sorry that Christopher Lennon feels my comments about private prison companies having a vested interest in high conviction and custody rates are “unworthy and a disgrace” and “arrant nonsense” that will “drive potential supporters away”. I stand by my views and would point at the disproportionately large “lifer” populations of English & Welsh prisons as found by the Conseil de l’Europe, where E & W accounted for half of the total lifer population of all C d’E nations combined. Then consider the fact that England & Wales has the highest percentage of private prisoners in the world – more even than the USA. Then consider the way in which prisoners is calculated – by the total of people in custody year-on-year rather than by adding up the gross total of custody years for all prisoners currently incarcerated. Given the impact of Schedule 21 CJA 2003 and the fashion for successive governments to vie with one another to be seen to be tough on crime, it is no wonder that the prison estate is bursting at the seams in England & Wales and likely to continue to grow despite efforts to reduce it. Mr Lennon might consider the top-loading effect of being convicted for a murder as part of a Joint Enterprise, which on a rough sentencing sample indicated an extra 5 years added to the minimum terms. He might also consider the hidden expectation that lifers in E & W should accept their guilt before parole can be considered. The number of lifers over tariff is growing. The lengths of tariffs is growing. The gross total of all projected prisoner years that is being banked up (cumulating all minimum custodial terms) is surely growing in England & Wales. Is this really “arrant nonsense”? Am I really unworthy for pointing out an obvious business case for investing in the private prison industry? Am I a “disgrace” for suggesting that those who are shareholders or appointed as directors of G4S, Serco and Sodexo are profiting from the injustice of people being unfairly branded as murderers by Joint Enterprise who had lesser or even no part in the index offence? I would go further, Mr Lennon. These companies are in line to generate greater profits as a direct result of the legal aid cuts as vulnerable people are less likely to be able to defend themselves against unfair prosecutions and will be under pressure to accept unwarranted plea bargains to limit the damage of maintaining innocence. Given that the private prison industry is also servicing the custody of illegal immigrants, providing probation services, custodial transport services, court services, there is every reason to suggest money can be made by investing in this lucrative financial sector. Perhaps Mr Lennon might consider whether one definition of Slavery is an enterprise based upon the denial of liberty of adults & children for whom an income can be obtained. Mr Lennon appears to display a touching naivety where commerce is concerned and a heart-warming faith in the honourable motives of those in charge of the Corporate Custody businesses. I wonder if Mr Lennon is minded to respond without resorting to further personal attacks.

  • Christopher Lennon July 6, 2015 10:19 am

    Rose, a comment on something you have posted is not a personal attack. It is not about Rose Leclerc, who may be a lovely person, for all I know. I simply commented and for the avoidance of doubt, repeat, that in my opinion, to suggest custody contractors have a vested interest in people being incarcerated and in long sentences (no need, because both are sadly all too prevalent and necessary for public protection)is unworthy and a disgrace and arrant nonsense.
    Getting back to the Joint Enterprise debate, you will note I drew attention to the work of two distinguished academics, Professors Wilson and Ormerod, who have strongly suggested the law on Joint Enterprise does require clarification, that the Supreme Court is in a position to act, as soon as a suitable case is appealed and that would be prefereable to holding out for legislative change, (relying on Miliband, as suggested in the original post by Bracken Stockley) which would be both complicated and controversial (even if Miliband were PM, which, mercifully, he is not).
    Having made a study of the subject, partly inspired by threads followed on thejusticegap and influenced by said academic opinion, I have, in fact, modified my earlier view that no change was required or likely to happen in the law of joint enterprise. To achieve progress, however, it will be necessary for campaigners to remain grounded and not to make outrageous statements, or use emotive words, such as ‘slavery’, if they are to gain public and professional support.

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