INTERVIEW/COMMENT: JUDGES REFUSE TO OVERTURN JOINT ENTERPRISE GUILTY VERDICTS
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Commenting on the news that judges have refused to overturn the guilty verdicts in the Joint Enterprise Court of Appeal ruling, former Principal Legal Advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions and Partner in Mishcon de Reya's Business Crime Group, Alison Levitt QC said:
"It has always been the case that a convicted person cannot appeal on the sole basis that there has been a change in the law. In Jogee, the Supreme Court said it would only allow appeals out of time by those who had suffered substantial injustice. The question is: what is meant by this? Some might say that being convicted of murder, when under the law as it is today you might not have been convicted, is a substantial injustice. This is not least because of the mandatory life sentence, which means you remain on licence for the rest of your life even after release. On the other hand, the Court of Appeal says it must conduct a balancing act, taking into account the important public interest in finality and closure for victims as well as the concerns of would-be appellants. The line they have drawn in reality means that most of those convicted of murder on a joint enterprise basis will not be able to appeal.
"The law even as clarified by Jogee still leaves substantial room for concern about the position of those who, whilst guilty of murder as a matter of law, in reality played a lesser role. Although this will not help those already convicted, perhaps this is now the time for Parliament to give consideration to whether the offence of murder should now be divided into first and second degree murder, where only "Murder One" has a mandatory life sentence and "Murder Two" could be life imprisonment, with the possibility of being less depending on the culpability of the individual concerned."