A panel of five Supreme Court judges have ruled, in the case of Ameen Jogee, that laws regarding joint enterprise offences have been misinterpreted for over thirty years. In 2011, Ameen Jogee had been convicted of the murder of Paul Fyfe, a former police officer, under joint enterprise. Although his conviction has been set aside, the court found that Jogee was indubitably guilty of at least manslaughter and there was other evidence that he could have been guilty of murder.
Joint enterprise cases allow a defendant involved in a crime, but who did not directly end another person’s life by delivering the final blow, stab or shot, to be tried for murder if that defendant could have foreseen their accomplice/s’ act. However, Lord Neuberger has held that it has been wrong to treat foresight as a sufficient test to convict a defendant accused of murder. However, the rule that “a person who intentionally encourages or assists the commission of a crime is as guilty as the person who physically commits it” has not been affected.
The ruling directly recognises judges’ mistakes dating from 1984 and thus will not impact on earlier joint enterprise cases. This will apply in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and most UK overseas common law territories since the Supreme Court was sitting in joint session with the Privy Council. The ruling could result in hundreds of appeal cases, although those convicted under joint prize will not necessarily be able to appeal. This is because the ruling has not made a retrospective change to the law and therefore those convicted would have to demonstrate that they would suffer a substantial injustice if they could not appeal.
Joint enterprise cases have become controversial due to their connection with gang culture, since there have been a high percentage of convictions for young, black and mixed-race men. A recent report Commons justice select committee report stated that “the low threshold of culpability for secondary participants is behind the sense of injustice harboured by many of those convicted of murder under the doctrine…”. Concerns regarding widespread miscarriages of justice have previously been loudly raised on multiple platforms.