Below we reproduce a letter to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, by the Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association Campaign (JENGbA) on his new Operation Shield proposals which have been likened to the doctrine of joint enterprise.
Dear Mr Johnson,
Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) is a grassroots campaign currently supporting over 500 prisoners and their families who have been convicted using the doctrine of joint enterprise. Sadly most of these men, women and children have been convicted of very serious offences and are serving mandatory life sentences even though they were not the actual perpetrator but linked by various tenuous ‘associations’.
Last year we gave evidence alongside leading legal academics to the Justice Select Committee in their follow up Inquiry into the issue. The JSC released their report in December. This report, which is enclosed, strongly vindicated our concerns that joint enterprise charging is ‘lazy’ policing and is leading to miscarriages of justice. The evidential bar in joint enterprise charging is virtually non-existent, despite what the CPS claim, it can be based on little or no evidence of what each individual did in very serious offences, we have cases where children are serving life sentences for receiving or sending a text message.
It is therefore to our complete shock to hear your decision to pilot Operation ‘Shield’ in three London boroughs. The tactic behind this operation completely goes against every recommendation made in the Justice Select Committee’s report which was decided by a unanimous cross party committee that urgent reform was needed in joint enterprise. Charging all the ‘gang’ members of the offence committed by one or more is joint enterprise by the back door – but far more serious. How is the gang defined when excellent academic research from university professors and those working with inner city youths argue these definitions coming from police intel are not reliable.
Your own MPS Guidance states that your department shall:
‘Set the strategic direction and objectives of MPS through police and crime plan, monitoring the performance of MPS against agreed priorities.’
What is the strategic direction and objective of Operation Shield and what data is something as serious as this based on? Where is the proof that it will offer some kind of deterrent to prevent young vulnerable children becoming involved in gang activities? How can you justify tax payers money on an US model of policing that failed in the US? Surely the money would be better spent, as every expert working with disadvantaged children can inform you, to try and better their opportunities and pathways that will not lead them into a never-ending circle of crime. Your office should be rejuvenating youth workers and grassroots community groups not using your position for political policing which is all Operation Shield can be; it will not prove a success but result in more young lives being ruined by the prison system. I have enclosed a summary of a Manchester Metropolitan University study into the area of Gangs and Youth Violence in Manchester City which in the fuller report proves that the police intel is deeply flawed.
Professor David Ormerod QC, possibly the leading legal academic in the country, has recently published an article in the Criminal Law Review calling for the Supreme Court to abolition joint enterprise, citing JENGbA’s campaign. The Justice Select Committee have recognised that the doctrine is discriminatory particularly against marginalised black youths. The boroughs you have decided to roll out this operation are those with large BME communities who already mistrust the police because of constant harassment by stop and search. JENGbA has recently been informed that some Borough’s police forces have pay performance targets linked to number of successful stop and searches officers carry out. Can you confirm if this is the case?
We are copying this letter to a number of individuals, such is our sense of outrage that you and the Met police think this operation is even legal. Guilt by association is archaic and if you truly believe it can result in effective charging then it should work both ways and police officers who are corrupt in their profession and knowingly continue to cover up these malfeasance practices should also be charged with joint enterprise.
We look forward to hearing your comments and meeting with you to discuss our concerns further.
Gloria Morrison Campaign Co-ordinator Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA)
Cc: Sir Alan Beith (Chair Justice Select Committee), Jeremy Corbyn MP (Special Rapporteur Joint Enterprise), Lord Herman Ouseley (Patron, JENGbA), Jimmy McGovern (Patron, JENGbA), Dame Joan Bakewell, Simon Hughes MP/Sadiq Khan MP/Andrew Slaughter MP/Andrew Mitchell MP/David Lammy MP/Mark Field MP/Lynne Featherstone MP/Kate Hoey MP/Tessa Jowell MP/Chuka Umunna MP, George Galloway MP, Suresh Grover (Director, The Monitoring Group) and Stafford Scott (Tottenham Rights).
Read about the actions planned around Operation Shield
IRR News article: ‘JENGbA welcomes call for reform of joint enterprise‘
IRR News article: ‘Joint enterprise, racism and BME communities‘