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Joint enterprise law 'wrongly interpreted' for 30 years

LIFE-CHANGING EVENT: Kenny Imafidon was fortunately acquitted of murder but many others are still locked up

THE SUPREME Court has opened the door for dozens of convicted murderers to appeal their sentences if they were jailed under the controversial principle of joint enterprise.

Joint enterprise is a doctrine created over 300 years ago, which allows people to be found equally as guilty for a crime that somebody else has committed.

But the Supreme Court said the controversial law took a “wrong turn” in the 1980s and directed judges to assess the crimes of alleged accomplices in murder cases in the same was as the actual killer.

MPs previously called for an urgent review of laws which allow a defendant to be convicted of murder even if they have not delivered the fatal blow.

Addressing the court, President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger, said: "This does not mean that a person who took part in unlawful venture which any reasonable person would realise carried the risk of causing physical harm, and which in fact resulted in death, would go scot-free unless he could be proved to have intended to assist or encourage the principal (offender) to inflict death or serious harm.

"Anybody who took part in a venture of that kind would be guilty of manslaughter, a very serious crime, at least unless the death resulted from something which he could not possibly have foreseen.

"But to be guilty of murder, rather than manslaughter, the secondary party (to the crime) had to have had the intent which I have described."

In November, Kenny Imafidon, a young man named one of Britain’s most outstanding students who was convicted under joint enterprise, wrote a candid piece for The Voice.

In 2011, “following the arrests of three of my close friends I was charged with murder and six other offences I did not commit,” he wrote.

He expressed that despite having no “concrete evidence”, he spent six months on remand at Feltham Young Offenders Institute. He was later acquitted half-way during the eight-week trial.

“You might think that in order for me to be charged with offences that carry a potential 30-year life sentence, that Operation Trident and the Crown Prosecution Service would have had concrete evidence.

“Both had to prove I committed those crimes or that I was present when they took place. The truth is they had nothing concrete.

“All they had was circumstantial evidence (such as mobile phone evidence showing communication between me and people I spoke to on a daily basis).”

He said the law had been “abused” by the police and prosecutors who are using it disproportionately against the black community.

“You do not have to be a legal expert to know that there is something wrong with using this ‘law’ inasmuch as it has the potential to drag innocent people into the criminal justice system. Yes, it may be used to bring about justice such as in the conviction of Stephen Lawrence’s and Ben Kinsella's murderers. However, these are exceptional cases,” he said.

On today's ruling, the 22-year-old told The Voice: ""The decision made today by the Supreme Court is an important one. Still, the fight remains to ensure that young black men and ethnic minorities are no longer disproportionately charged with Joint Enterprise before they even get to court."

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