THE BLOG
21/02/2016 12:43 GMT | Updated 19/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Joint Enterprise: "Wrongly Interpreted for 30 Years"

This week has marked a pivotal moment in the British judicial system as the UK's highest court has finally ruled that the law on 'joint enterprise' has been wrongly interpreted for 30 years. I believe that to be an understatement.

If you aren't already aware of this law, it is (in a nutshell) a doctrine that allows a person to be jointly liable as another person even though they may have not committed the act themselves.

In fact myself and thousands of people have been perplexed by 'guilty by association' law for the past three decades. The problem is that when this law is applied to murder cases, it does not require a single member of a group to actually intend to kill or commit serious harm. All it requires is for them to foresee that another member "might" perhaps kill, or at its lowest level, "might" inflict serious harm.

Today marks a big step forward. What happened today was needed to readdress this unjust doctrine that was developed in the 18th century to discourage people from getting involved in duels.

You may have heard of him by now but I believe Kenny Imafidon's story to be a prime example of how this law has failed too many of our young people.

In May 2011, just weeks after his 18th birthday, Kenny was wrongfully remanded in custody for a total of seven serious charges (including murder) with four of his closest friends. A bright student with high hopes of getting into politics, he faced 30-years in prison for a crime he had not committed. However, Kenny is one of the lucky few to have turned this travesty into positivity; whilst in jail he knuckled down and became the only person to have ever achieved A'levels in Feltham prison.

Upon his release, he made a remarkable comeback. He had soon turned his experience into a positive by penning the award-winning 'The Kenny Reports'. He is now considered a leading-edge, political commentator, social entrepreneur and campaigner on socio-economic issues affecting young people in the UK.

His story is an inspiring one but Kenny is just one of thousands who are arrested, imprisoned and often sentenced through joint enterprise. Most of them are in prison now.

Two years ago, BBC1 aired a documentary about a teenage boy named Edward Conteh, a young man who was prosecuted under that same law.

He is serving time for manslaughter and was branded a 'ruthless killer' by the press. The documentary showed us a young man who took no part in the actual killing he was convicted for. He had never held a weapon or even saw the violence take place. The 15-year old boy had wanted to stay home and play on his PlayStation, but his friends convinced him to go to the park. He is now serving a minimum of 6-years. Travesty simply isn't the word for cases like these.

Speaking today, Kenny said: The decision made today by the Supreme Court is an important one. Still, the fight remains to ensure that young black men and ethnic minorities are no longer disproportionately charged with Joint Enterprise before they even get to court."

I agree. A number of convicted murderers are now able to appeal to have their convictions overturned. I remain sceptical, as much as I'd like to say all those imprisoned under joint enterprise will now be free to appeal, the judicial system thus far hasn't proved to be this straightforward. Will the courts risk having egg on their faces further by revoking their decisions? Time will tell.