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Joint enterprise study: righting a wrong turn

The Prison Reform Trust and Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) have published their study into Joint Enterprise. The report says there is an ‘urgent need’ for much greater clarity and transparency in the prosecution of ‘joint enterprise’ cases.

Details

The research report by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) of Birkbeck, University of London, in partnership with the Prison Reform Trust was based on detailed analysis of 61 joint enterprise cases. The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, aimed to find out how the doctrine of ‘joint enterprise’ was used in the prosecution of serious offences.

The researchers looked at 61 Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) case files and associated court transcripts of prosecutions carried out under joint enterprise.

Of the 61 joint enterprise cases sampled in the report, 34 involved allegations of robbery, 15 allegations of section 18 assault and 12 allegations of murder. Almost two-thirds of the 157 defendants in the sampled cases were aged under 25. Of defendants for whom ethnicity was known, around two-thirds were from minority ethnic groups and over 40% were black.

The report highlights as a key concern the fact that “there are currently no provisions for routine recording and monitoring of cases involving forms of joint enterprise”.

To enhance clarity and transparency, the report calls for routine recording and monitoring of cases involving joint enterprise; and for improved Sentencing Council guidance for judges dealing with multi-defendant cases. It also calls for the development of a new terminology to replace the “now toxic phrase ‘joint enterprise’”.

Jennifer Twite, Head of Strategic Litigation (youth justice) at Just for Kids Law was part of study’s independent expert advisory group.

The report is here.

A summary of the findings is here.

Commentary

This study highlights the fact that the use of the ‘joint enterprise’ doctrine appears to be overcriminalising black males. However, only 3 of the 61 cases analysed invovled the principle of parasitic accessorial liability (PAL) – the legal principle abolished in the recent Supreme Court case of Jogee judgment.

This suggests that the evolution of the doctrine of joint enterprise will not reduce the high numbers of young black males convicted under the joint enterprise principle.

The study calls for the CPS to record and monitor cases involving joint enterprise and it is hoped this will provide far also greater insight into the over representation of black and ethnic minority (BAME) groups.