On 25 and 26 of January, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies held three events to launch publication Dangerous associations: Joint enterprise, gangs and racism researched and written by Patrick Williams and Becky Clarke of Manchester Metropolitan University.
The Centre’s deputy Director Will McMahon chaired the national launch event in Manchester on Monday morning. Those attending were drawn from a wide range of interested organisations, including the head of the Manchester Metropolitan Police Xcalibre Task Force, local councillors from communities impacted by joint enterprise and ‘gang’ labelling, local voluntary sector practitioners as well as family members who have relatives in prison, one sentenced to 35 years, who spoke passionately about the injustice of the sentences their relatives had received.
On Monday evening, the Centre held a London Community launch event in Tottenham, North London. Chaired by Stafford Scott, over 120 people, most drawn from the local community but others from as far and wide as Brighton, Cambridge, Nottingham and Luton, listened to and debated the report findings. Family members spoke about the loss of loved ones to decades in prison because of the misapplication of the joint enterprise doctrine. The event also heard from barristers and lawyers who said that it was well known that there was a significant problem with the large numbers of young black men being unjustly sentenced under joint enterprise.
On Tuesday 26, Committee Room 14, the largest Committee room in the House of Commons, was filled with around 130 people who came to hear the authors introduce the report and a cross party group of MPs and Lords to explain why they thought the issue needs to be urgently addressed.
Andrew Mitchell, Conservative MP, chaired the event and spoke alongside Labour MP Andy Slaughter and Liberal Democrat Lord Alan Beith. Bob Neill, Conservative Chair of the Justice Select Committee also spoke, as did the newly-elected Edmonton Labour MP Kate Osamor. Others who spoke included Lord Ouseley and Labour MP Stephen Pound. Former Director of Public Prosecutions and now Labour MP Kier Starmer also attended the event.
The cross-party support for a review of joint enterprise is evident, and the report gained a warm welcome from all sides. Many people now accept that there are innocent people in prison serving very long sentences, and the Dangerous Associations report has strengthened considerably the evidence-base that calls into question the discriminatory application of the joint enterprise doctrine. All those concerned with the issue now await the ruling of the Supreme Court on R v Jogee that is expected soon.