Case Summary: Supreme Court making legal history - interpretation of joint enterprise.

Case Summary: Supreme Court making legal history - interpretation of joint enterprise. thumbnail

R v Jogee [2016] UKSC 8

Ruddock v The Queen (Jamaica) [2016] UKPC 7

This is an important case dealing with the scope of joint enterprise and the appropriate mens rea to be applied in cases where two or more defendants set out on a joint enterprise to commit one offence and in the course of it one defendant commits another, often more serious, offence.  The typical example is where a group set out on a joint enterprise to commit an affray and one of the group in the course of the affray commits murder.

Until 1985 the law was settled. However, the Privy Council case of Chan Wing-Sui v The Queen[1985] AC 168 introduced the premise that it was sufficient for an accessory to have foreseen the possibility that the further offence would have occurred.

The issue of foresight was then developed and affirmed most notably in the House of Lords decision of R v Powell and R v English [1999] AC 1.

In the present case, the Supreme Court unanimously concluded that Chan Wing-Sui had taken a wrong turn by introducing foresight as the relevant mens rea. The correct rule of law is that foresight is simply evidence (albeit sometimes strong evidence) of the proper mental element, which is an intention to assist or encourage the principal offender to commit the relevant offence.

Their Lordships were concerned that as a result of Chan Wing-Sui this law had developed into a controversial area that had lead to a large number of appeals and had resulted in a striking anomaly of a lower mental threshold being applied to those who were accused of being a secondary party to a crime than in the case of the principal offender.

The Court were at pains to point out that their decision did not open the flood gates to further appeals and that many convictions under the old law would still be safe.

For the full judgement  click here: http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2016/8.html

Dale Brook
Criminal Law Team