On Thursday 25th January I spoke in Parliament about Joint Enterprise, calling for a review of this legal doctrine following the Supreme Court verdict two years ago that the law has been misinterpreted. As my Review into the over-representation of BAME individuals in our criminal justice system recommended, a review of how the CPS and police approach gang prosecutions is urgently needed.
As I said in Parliament, we don't use the term 'gangs' to talk about the Bullingdon Club, but we do use the term 'gangs' when we talk about groups of young men in my constituency. Joint Enterprise creates miscarriages of justice and erodes trust in our justice system.
Under Joint Enterprise, an accessory party can be liable even if they withdraw from a group before any crime is committed. In the example of a group of students in a playground or a park, where someone talks about teaching someone a lesson — and one of those individuals thinks that teaching a lesson involves assault and just because the group had discussed teaching someone a lesson, someone else may end up in prison for murder even if they had nothing to do with it.
And has it worked? Knife crime is rising: in England and Wales, there were 36,998 knife crime offences in the 12 months to the end of June. Has this doctrine therefore had the effect that people suggested it would? It has not. It has not had that effect because it is not minors driving knife crime — it is serious organised criminals: gangsters and kingpins. They are driving the trafficking of cocaine and drugs, which is leading to the turf wars that are making some of the communities we represent more violent. The 14, 15 and 16-year-olds or those in their early-20s locked up for the offence of joint enterprise do not know anything about getting a tonne of cocaine from Bolivia or Colombia. We must go after the gangsters.
You can watch a clip of my speech here. You can read my speech in full on Hansard here.