Britain's Supreme Court Reverses Legal Practice Notorious For Prejudicial Enforcment
London, UK -– Often lost amidst the damning evidence of injustice in the enforcement of Britain’s notorious legal doctrine of joint enterprise are real people like Susan Williams –- persons whose lives have been shredded by the JE doctrine that Britain’s Supreme Court just gutted in a dramatic ruling today.
Williams' grandson is serving a life sentence under joint enterprise which permits convictions carrying long sentences even of persons who did not commit a crime or even know a crime would occur. Williams said her grandson was trying to break up a fight in 2010 that ended in a fatal shooting by others, yet led to his conviction under JE.
The nightmare for Williams following the joint enterprise arrest and conviction of her grandson, Trevelle Williams, got much darker last November when her youngest daughter, the mother of Trevelle, committed suicide.
Williams’ daughter, Tara Le, was distraught over her inability to free her son Trevelle, nicknamed Bluey, from what the Williams family and others saw as a wrongful conviction.
“The last thing she said to me was 'Mom, no one is listening.' Tara said lawyers, the courts and human rights people would not respond to her or the evidence she had uncovered,” Williams said during an interview the day before Britain’s Supreme Court announced its historic ruling on JE.
That unanimous decision by Britain's highest court, rendered on February 18, 2016, sets new legal standards for joint enterprise saying older standards had been applied too loosely by police, prosecutors and courts for over 30-years.
The President of Britain’s Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, before reading the decision before a courtroom packed with persons, most opposed to JE, said, “We consider that the proper course for this court is to re-state as nearly and clearly as we may, the principles which had been established over many years before the law took a wrong turn.”
The Court’s unanimous ruling stated that an error had been made in the mid-1980s when law enforcers, from police through judges and legislators, began equating intent to commit a crime and/or intent to participate in a crime with the contention advanced by enforcers that persons arrested for a crime should have exercised “foresight” in knowing a crime could occur. This led to people being charged and convicted and sentenced simply for having the "bad judgement" or "lack of foresight" to show up at the scene of a crime, even if they weren't personally involved.
Many JE convictions, particularly of persons who did not commit the actual crime or who were not even present when that crime occurred, rested on the principle that they should have exercised such “foresight” and stayed away.