Right now, hundreds of people are serving time in UK prisons for crimes they did not commit. Many of them are serving long sentences, of 15 years or more, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are our sons, daughters and friends and they are suffering the consequences of a grave injustice.
The Joint Enterprise legislation is over 300 years old and was initially created to discourage the use of illegal duelling. Today, however, it is increasingly being used to find people guilty of violent crimes if they are seen to have lent encouragement to the main perpetrator. In the last 10 years it has been excessively used to convict all of those present at the scene of a serious crime, regardless of whether they were aware of any plans or intention for a crime to be committed.
We formed the campaign group Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) in 2010 because we all had close friends or family members who were convicted under this law and we couldn’t just sit back and let this happen. At present, we have over 370 cases in our files of people who have been convicted under the law and who claim they are innocent.
Jordan Cunliffe is one of them. He was 15 years old when he was walking home with some friends and a neighbour mistook them for vandals. The man challenged the group and after an altercation received a blow to the neck, from which he died 2 days later. During this whole time Jordan may have been standing more than 10 feet away and was not involved in the violent altercation. Prosecution claimed he witnessed it, but Jordan is blind and could not possibly have seen it. He is now serving a 12 year life sentence for murder.
Ray Gilbert was convicted in 1981 for the murder of a Liverpudlian bookmaker, a crime for which he has always maintained he was innocent. Initially given a 15 year sentence he has now served more than 30 years because he has refused to plead guilty. He is believed to be Britain’s longest serving prisoner claiming wrongful conviction.
Jordan and Ray are just two of hundreds of people who are being convicted under this antiquated law and the injustices have to stop. Pressure from campaign groups like ours forced an inquiry into the use of the law in 2011, but it still remains in force. If enough of us come together we can put more pressure on the government to make sure this law is abolished for good and ensure that no other families have to watch their innocent children waste their lives away in prison.
Please sign the petition and help us put a stop to the injustice.
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