Joint enterprise crime is a grey area in the law, with many unsure exactly how these laws can, or should, be applied to crime cases. With a large amount of recent media coverage, joint enterprise has come to the forefront and is being hotly debated by legal professionals and others alike. The criminal defence specialists at Carter Moore Solicitors have put together a brief overview of the past, present and future of joint enterprise crime, to help you understand it a little better.
Read this blog for more information on what joint enterprise is and the future of joint enterprise.
What is joint enterprise crime?
Joint enterprise is a type of criminal offence where someone can be convicted and sentenced for a crime without having directly committed it. For example, if someone commits a murder, and another person was at the scene who was potentially aware that a murder was going to take place but did not take any action to prevent it (or actively encouraged it), they could also be convicted of the murder.
The history of joint enterprise crime
The first well publicised case involving a joint enterprise conviction was the trial of Derek Bentley back in 1952. Bentley, 18 years old at the time, and friend Christopher Craig, aged 16, were caught in the act whilst robbing a factory in Croydon.
Craig fired a shot which killed Sidney Miles, the police officer who had interrupted their burglary. Both Bentley and Craig were charged and convicted of the murder due to joint enterprise rules. Despite this, only Bentley was sentenced to hang as Craig was only 16 at the time of the murder.
According to the evidence given during the trial, Bentley shouted to craig ‘let him have it’, which involved him in the murder and led to the joint enterprise conviction.
Why is it so controversial?
Joint enterprise crimes have come under deep scrutiny in the UK in recent years. Opposers to joint enterprise argue that convictions are used to unfairly target young men of colour, who in fact were innocent of the crimes being committed. It is also felt that these convictions are made too commonly, or unfairly, putting innocent bystanders at risk of being incorrectly convicted.
What is the future of joint enterprise?
The future is currently unclear for joint enterprise convictions. Judges in the UK’s Supreme Court have ruled that joint enterprise laws have been interpreted incorrectly for the last 30 years. Judges ruled that ‘foresight’ of a crime potentially happening is not sufficient for someone to be guilty of joint enterprise crimes and going forward foresight would not be sufficient for a joint enterprise conviction.
This could result in a large number of appeals, particularly in gang related cases where it was determined that those convicted potentially could have predicted or foreseen violent acts carried out by associates.