Here at Researching Reform the concept of Joint Enterprise in law is something we have just learned about, having been made aware of it only last week when we were invited to attend an event at the Southbank on youth justice, but it is an important doctrine that is now being looked at by the House of Lords.

In brief, joint enterprise is a common law doctrine which allows for more than one person to be charged for the same crime. The prosecution just has to show that he or she could have foreseen the person they were with ‘might’ kill or inflict serious harm.

This common law principle has led to some very concerning miscarriages of justice, and this is what The Lords will be considering today.

A call for an urgent review of joint enterprise law was made last year by the Justice Committee, after startling figures were released showing an unusually high number of people had been prosecuted under the law. 

However in February 2015, Chris Grayling as Secretary of State for Justice, rejected the idea that the doctrine needed to be looked at. 

This issue is clearly not going away, and nor should it. The doctrine affects young boys and girls as well as adults, and acts like a far-reaching arm of the law which can be heavy-handed and overzealous.

The very excellent Just For Kids Law will be intervening in the Supreme Court today, and will be arguing that the doctrine of joint enterprise as it stands does not take into account the cognitive development of young people, and as a result must be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

The Lords’ judgments on the appeals before them today are expected to be published in early 2016.

joint enterprise