Supreme Court and Privy Council hand down landmark decision on law of joint enterprise

Thursday 18 February 2016

The Supreme Court and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in an historic first joint sitting) have today handed down a landmark judgment on the law of joint enterprise. James Mehigan and Joanne Cecil of Garden Court Chambers acted in R v Jogee; Ruddock v The Queen [2016] UKSC 8.

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The law of joint enterprise has long been considered to be highly controversial and had developed into a complicated and confusing doctrine which has led to many apparent injustices. Today, the Supreme Court and Privy Council have clarified that law.

Their Lordships held that a person cannot be found guilty of an offence unless there is proof that he or she positively intended that it should be committed and that mere foresight of an accomplice’s intention is insufficient. In a momentous ruling, the Court concluded that the Privy Council took a wrong turn in its decision of Chan Wing-Siu [1985] AC 168, which was subsequently adopted in the then House of Lords case of Powell and English [1999] 1 AC 1 and has since been settled law in England and Wales. The judgment sets down a significant precedent which has wide-ranging ramifications for the criminal courts in England and Wales, Jamaica and other jurisdictions.

Jo Cecil, instructed by Just for Kids Law, states that “The extended law of joint enterprise resulted in numerous miscarriages of justice, most often concerning children, young people, and the vulnerable and had a disproportionate impact on young black men and boys. This judgment will impact on both future prosecutions and past convictions for the most serious offences. This will ensure that people are held accountable for their individual role in any offence and not simply the actions or intention of others”.

James Mehigan, representing Ruddock, states that “This is one of the most significant developments in criminal law in recent years. It brings together a vast amount of judicial authority from numerous jurisdictions and subjects them to careful scrutiny. In doing so, it finds that the long-standing principle of ‘parasitic accessorial liability’ is incorrect.”

Just for Kids Law (JFKL) and JENGbA intervened in the case.

JFKL intervened because of the huge increase in young people and children being charged and convicted of joint enterprise offences over the last ten years. More information can be found in Just for Kids Law’s press release.

The issue now will be how this affects those convicted of serious offences under the doctrine of joint enterprise. It will provide hope to many who have been convicted of serious offences in circumstances where they found themselves caught up in dangerous situations which were beyond their control.

James Mehigan represented the Privy Council Applicant Shirley Ruddock. James was led by Julian Knowles QC and instructed by Matthew Blower of Dorsey & Whitney (Europe) LLP.

Jo Cecil, together with Francis Fitzgibbon QC, Caolifhionn Gallagher and Daniella Waddoup of Doughty Street Chambers represented the intervener Just For Kids Law, pro bono. They were instructed by Jennifer Twite and Shauneen Lambe.

Both Jo and James are members of Garden Court Chambers’ Crime Team, winners of the Legal 500 Crime Set of the Year Award.

More information can be found in the judgment: R v Jogee; Ruddock v The Queen [2016] UKSC 8.

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