THE FIRST person to have a joint enterprise murder conviction quashed was released from prison yesterday in a landmark ruling against the controversial form of collective punishment.
Joint enterprise is used to convict defendants in gang-related cases even if they did not strike the fatal blow. There have been cases where those who are still languishing in jail, were not even there at the scene of the crime when the murder took place.
Under the law of joint enterprise, someone can be convicted of murder if it is deemed that they could have ‘foreseen violent acts by their associates’. This means that if the murderer phones or texts their friend before committing the act announcing their intention, that friend can then also get done for murder under the law of joint enterprise.
Yesterday, after his case was quashed, John Crilly was finally released after serving 13 years in prison. He was given a life sentence for murder and robbery in 2005 after he and his associate David Flynn broke into the home of 71-year-old Augustine Maduemezia in Manchester.
Maduemezia died after being punched in the face by Flynn. In 2016, Supreme Court judges said the law of joint enterprise had been wrongly interpreted. During his time in prison, Crilly started a law degree. When he heard about the overturning of the joint enterprise law, he believed it would apply to his case.
Crilly said: ‘I wasn’t a violent drug addict. I was lost. I was lost in drugs. I had a bad life, I’ve changed it, but I wasn’t guilty of murder. I totally accept what I did and it was wrong. That’s important to me. I’m not a murderer.’
There are 4,500 mainly black and ethnic minority people in jail in Britain implicated under the joint enterprise law which actually dates back 300 years. It is an old duelling law. In one high profile case, Alex Henry, who is serving a 19-year prison sentence for murder, never touched the weapon used.
In March 2014, Henry, then 20, was convicted of murder under the joint enterprise law after his friend, Cameron Ferguson, then 19, fatally stabbed Taqui Khezihi, 21, in Ealing, west London. Ferguson pleaded guilty to murder and was jailed for 22 years. Henry was found guilty by association after it was argued he could have ‘foreseen’ the knife could be used to cause death or harm. Henry maintains he did not know Ferguson had a knife. His family say they will not stop fighting for justice for Henry.