South Yorkshire prisoners found guilty on the basis of ‘joint enterprise’ could challenge their convictions after the Supreme Court ruled that the law has been wrongly interpreted for the past 30 years.
In murder cases, joint enterprise is often used by prosecutors to secure convictions when it is not known for sure who killed someone but when defendants are accused of being part of a larger plot where it is said they must have anticipated that death would be the outcome.
The Supreme Court judgment, delivered at a hearing in London today, said prosecutors, judges and jurors must take a different approach when dealing with such defendants.
They said it was not right that someone should be guilty merely because they foresaw that a co-accused might commit a crime.
Jurors should view ‘foresight’ only as evidence to be taken into account, not as proof.
A panel of five Supreme Court justices analysed the issue of joint enterprise at a hearing in London in October when considering an appeal by a man who was convicted of murder after egging on a friend to stab a former policeman.
Joint enterprise legislation was used to convict four men of the murder of 17-year-old Tarek Chaiboub, of Wincobank, Sheffield, who was shot at a barber’s shop in Burngreave in July 2008.
Nigel Junior Ramsey, his brother Denzil Ramsey, their next door neighbour Levan Menzies and their friend Michael Chattoo were jailed for a total of 110 years after being found guilty of murder.
The prosecution was unable to say who shot the teenager but said that all the men were involved.
In April 2008 brothers David and Ashley Cohen, from Sheffield, were jailed for a total of 64 years between them after being convicted of the murder of 53-year-old taxi driver Younis Khan, who was shot in his cab in 2007.
The brothers, who denied murder, were convicted on the basis of joint enterprise.
Although the prosecution could not say who pulled the trigger, they said the brothers ‘planned and orchestrated’ the murder.
The brothers were said to have organised Mr Khan’s shooting in revenge after the taxi driver’s son, Imran, opened fire on David’s house following a nightclub brawl.
David Norris and Gary Dobson were convicted under joint enterprise in 2012 for the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death by a gang in a racially motivated murder in Eltham, south-east London, when he was 18.
Three teenagers, Adam Swellings, Stephen Sorton and Jordan Cunliffe, were jailed for life in January 2008 for the murder of Garry Newlove, who was attacked in August 2007 after he confronted a group outside his house in Warrington, Cheshire. Cunliffe’s mother Janet claims that although he was at the scene he did not take part in the murder, and she has campaigned against joint enterprise laws.
Football agent Andrew Taylor and sports event manager Timmy Donovan were jailed for seven years and six months and six years and 10 months respectively for beating to death off-duty policeman Pc Neil Doyle on his Christmas work night out in Liverpool in 2014. Neither defendant admitted throwing the fatal punch which ruptured his vertebral artery.
Samantha Joseph was jailed for 10 years for the killing of Shakilus Townsend after acting as a ‘honey trap’ to lure the 16-year-old to his death when she was 15 in 2008. She led Shakilus to a quiet cul-de-sac in Thornton Heath, south London, where he was beaten with baseball bats and stabbed six times by her older boyfriend Danny McLean. They were both convicted of murder.
Five teenagers were given jail sentences totalling 76 years in 2011 over the killing of 15-year-old Zac Olumegbon, who was stabbed as he arrived at Park Campus School in West Norwood, south London, in July 2010.