Judges reject test cases by appellants convicted of 'joint enterprise' murders
Leading judges have refused to overturn guilty verdicts in the first appeals brought in "joint enterprise" cases since a landmark Supreme Court ruling raised the possibility that hundreds of convictions could be unsafe.
Three of the country's most senior judges gave their decision at London's Court of Appeal yesterday in test case challenges brought by several men convicted of group attack murders.
The appeals followed a decision in February by the UK's highest court that the application of the law on joint enterprise, otherwise known as common enterprise, had taken "a wrong turn" and been misinterpreted for 30 years.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, who heard the cases with Sir Brian Leveson, and Lady Justice Hallett, was greeted by cries of protest from supporters of the men in the public gallery as he gave decisions in the individual appeals.
At the heart of the case is the "foresight principle" in joint enterprise cases. Used for years to tackle gang violence, defendants have been convicted if they could have foreseen a murder or violent act was likely to take place.
But the Supreme Court said the rule was being misinterpreted and juries had to decide "on the whole evidence" if a person had the "necessary intent" to join in the commission of a crime.
The judges threw out challenges brought by 13 individuals involved in six separate crimes.
Lord Thomas said the cases were not connected "save for the need to consider, individually for each case, the impact on convictions - mainly, but not entirely, for murder" - of the Supreme Court decision on February 18. The first of the test cases heard by the appeal judges in June concerned the conviction of Asher Johnson, his brother Lewis, and Reece Garwood, all in their 20s, who were jailed for life for murdering Thomas Cudjoe on a garage forecourt near a pub in Ley Street, Ilford, east London, in November 2012. A fourth convicted man, Jerome Green, was seen in CCTV footage apparently stabbing Mr Cudjoe.
Lawyers for the Johnson brothers and Garwood told the court there was no evidence of common enterprise between them and Green, and the CCTV did not show they had been involved in a planned attack. There was also no evidence they had given verbal encouragement to Green to carry out the killing.
Announcing the decision in that case, Lord Thomas said that, "given the jury's findings of fact, their verdicts would have been no different" post the Supreme Court ruling.
The Court of Appeal was "satisfied that there was no injustice, let alone substantial injustice".
The second case heard by the judges challenged the safety of the convictions of Tyler Burton and Nicholas Terrelonge, who were found guilty of murdering young father Ashley Latty in a group attack after a birthday party in Dagenham, east London, in May 2014.
Lord Thomas said a direction given to the jury based on the Supreme Court judgment "would not have made a difference to the jury's verdicts". The convictions "were and are safe".
Last week in Belfast five men jailed for high-profile murders in Northern Ireland were refused permission to reopen their appeals against conviction.
They included Nigel Brown, one of two men convicted of killing Thomas Devlin in 2005.
Senior judges also rejected an attempt by a woman found guilty of the manslaughter of a wedding guest in Londonderry to have her case re-examined.
All six have already mounted unsuccessful attempts to have their convictions quashed.