The usual suspects

Helen Mills, Matt Ford and Roger Grimshaw
Thursday, 28 April 2022

The Usual Suspects uses national data to assess the use of joint enterprise laws in prosecutions for serious violence in England and Wales over the last fifteen years.

It is the first publication to track information about multi-defendant cases and secondary suspects over this significant period of years, and features up-to-date figures inclusive of the period post the 2016 Supreme Court judgment, which ruled the law had taken ‘a wrong turn’ for more than thirty years.

Among the report's findings:

  • Over a thousand people were convicted of murder or manslaughter as a secondary suspect in the ten year period to 2020.
  • Those from minority ethnicity communities, particularly the Black community, are consistently over-represented in joint enterprise prosecutions.
  • The Supreme Court verdict had no discernible impact on the numbers of people prosecuted or convicted of serious violence as secondary suspects.

The report calls for the House of Commons Justice Committee to review the application of joint enterprise rules. It all also calls on the Crown Prosecution Service to commit to proper data collection, and to undertake a retrospective review of joint enterprise prosecutions.

The report follows on from Dangerous Associations, the 2016 study which demonstrated how associations, gang and joint enterprise were being used to prosecute young people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

We are grateful to the Barrow Cadbury Trust for supporting this work.

Kim Johnson MP presses the government on the injustices of joint enterprise convictions, 26 May 2022

Selected coverage of The Usual Suspects