MPs back change to joint enterprise law

Gerard Childs, from Prescot, who has been convicted of murder under the law of joint enterprise
Gerard Childs, from Prescot, who has been convicted of murder under the law of joint enterprise

Campaigners against the controversial joint enterprise law were given fresh hope this week when a group of MPs called for it to be reformed.

The Justice Committee said the legislation, which allows all members of a gang to be convicted of the same crime, could be condemning people who have played minor roles to life sentences.

The joint enterprise law was used last December to convict Gerard Childs and Stephen Price of the murder of Jonathan Fitchett on the Cables Retail Park in Prescot.

The duo were found guilty of murdering the 22-year-old in broad daylight in the summer of 2013 - despite it being unclear who had struck the fatal blow.

Childs and Price’s lawyers have since argued that jurors could not have been sure that both men intended to kill Mr Fitchett when the fatal blow was landed.

A judge at London’s Appeal Court ruled that both defendants’ cases in challenging the safety of their verdicts were “arguable”.

Now the campaign has been given new momentum after MPs asked the Law Commission to carry out an urgent review of the law of joint enterprise in murder cases.

Committee chair Sir Alan Beith said: “There are clearly cases in which joint enterprise is necessary to ensure that guilty people are convicted.

“The mandatory life sentence for murder means that an individual can be convicted and given a life sentence without the prosecution having to demonstrate that they had any intention of murder being committed.”