Many killers could appeal convictions under joint enterprise law change

A Supreme Court ruling could result in a number of defendants convicted under the doctrine of joint enterprise appealing their convictions

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of Britain's killers could have their convictions for murder overturned, after a ruling by the Supreme Court.

The change to the doctrine of joint enterprise could result in a number of defendants convicted under the principle appealing their convictions - contesting the 'foresight' test used to determine their mental input into the crime that was actually committed.

The controversial law on joint enterprise – which can result in people being convicted of murder even if they did not commit the killing – has been wrongly interpreted for the past 30 years, the Supreme Court ruled this morning

Judges sitting in the UK's highest court said prosecutors, judges and jurors must take a different approach when dealing with defendants in such cases in the future.

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, a gang member can be convicted of murder if he foresaw that the person they were with would “possibly” kill or inflict serious harm.

The Supreme Court's judges said 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.

Foresight was only evidence of the person's intention to encourage a crime - not as proof for a conviction of the crime committed, it said.

What does the Supreme Court’s ruling mean for those already convicted under joint enterprise?

In its summary of today's ruling, the Supreme Court said that those convicted under joint enterprise, whose cases do not meet the time limit required to appeal, would require “exceptional leave” from the Court of Appeal to challenge their convictions.

Gloria Morrison, of JENGbA, said the organisation will continue to help those convicted under the principle to appeal their convictions.

She said: “Our campaign has always been about getting people out of prison and that’s what we will keep working for."