Serious concerns have been raised about the impact Joint Enterprise is having on BAME communities
29 January 2016 12:00 AM

Joint Enterprise and the criminalisation of young black men

29 January 2016

By Becky Clarke and Patrick Williams

The launch of a new report into Joint Enterprise (JE) – where more than one person is prosecuted for the same offence, even if they were not all in the proximity – attracted a lot of interest this week. The response reflected the deep sense of injustice experienced each day by many individuals currently serving JE sentences, and the families who tirelessly campaign for them.

Under JE, if prosecutors can demonstrate that a group of individuals held a ‘common purpose’ then all the participants may be held liable for crimes committed by just one member, even if they did not personally take part and did not even want the crime to take place.

The findings of the research, which was carried out by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS), were striking. Of the 250 current JE prisoners that were surveyed, over half were from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. On average BAME individuals served longer sentences and were usually younger than their white counterparts.

Under this law, multiple people are often convicted of a single offence. On average this was four individuals, but it was often many more. One case had 26 co-defendants. Yet almost half (45%) of the prisoners serving collective punishment under Joint Enterprise, reported that they were not at the scene of the crime when the offence was committed.

A wider study by Cambridge University, of long-term prisoners, highlighted not only the scale of JE cases but also the potential over-representation of BAME individuals. In a submission to the Justice Select Committee they raised serious questions about whether this could be due to an association that exists in the minds of the police, prosecutors and juries between young BAME people and gangs.

Four out of five of the BAME respondents (80%) in the CCJS report said that the concept of a ‘gang’ was drawn upon by the prosecution of their court case. This figure was significantly lower for white prisoners.

Next article

Related articles