Report finds ‘Joint Enterprise’ rules target young black men

A survey of nearly 250 serving prisoners convicted under joint enterprise provisions has found evidence that black and minority ethnic people are serving long prison sentences because of unfair and racist criminal justice practices. The survey results are contained in a new report published today by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

Dangerous Associations tracks the complex process of criminalisation through which black and minority ethnic people are unfairly identified by the police as members of dangerous gangs. This apparent ‘gang’ affiliation’ is used to secure convictions, under joint enterprise provisions, for offences they have not committed. Dangerous associations also finds evidence that it is black and minority ethnic defendants who bear the brunt of joint enterprise prosecutions. The report offers a troubling exposé of the use of collective punishment against black and minority ethnic people, based on racism, rumour and innuendo.

Among the recommendations are:

• A rethink of the use of racist ‘gang’ stereotyping in the policing of serious violence.
• Greater transparency in the use of joint enterprise, through the production and publication of official statistics on the charging and prosecution in relation to joint enterprise, including information on the age, gender and ethnicity of defendants.

Will McMahon, Deputy Director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said:

‘Prosecutions under joint enterprise all too often seem to involve a dangerous cocktail of innuendo, hearsay and racism. If you have a black skin you are much more likely to be convicted under that law. This report shows that a large number of people may have been given long sentences for offences they did not commit. Regardless of ethnicity, this is an affront to justice.  An urgent review is needed’.

Patrick Williams, lead author on the report said:

‘Serious violence affects all communities irrespective of ‘race’ and ethnicity, class, gender and age.  Our research suggests that the ongoing preoccupation with the gang results in the unwarranted targeting and policing of young black men, which diverts attention away from the wider problem of serious violence throughout England and Wales.  The survey responses reveal the human tragedy of young lives disrupted and damaged by the indiscriminate use of collective punishments as currently practiced through the doctrine of joint enterprise’.

Gloria Morrison, Campaign Co-ordinator at JENGbA, which campaigns for reform of joint enterprise laws, said:

‘Joint Enterprise is a common law used against common people and makes no common sense. This lazy law allows for lazy policing and is the perfect tool for lazy prosecutors. Its continued use has undermined the British legal system to the point that a defendant is now guilty until they can prove themselves innocent. People are serving life sentences for crimes they have not actually committed’.


Evening Seminar on Racial Discrimination and Criminal Justice in the EU

Last week on 9 and 10 July 2015, a two day conference celebrated and contemplated 50 years since passing of the Race Relations Act 1965. Organised by Dr Iyiola Solanke (University of Leeds) and Mr Patrick Maddams (Honourable Society of the Inner Temple), the conference was fittingly supported and held at the august British Academy in London. Academics, practitioners, lawyers and policy-makers came together to critically consider the changes that the last 50 years had brought and looked ahead to what the agenda for the next 50 years might look like in terms of race relations. It was undeniable that much had been achieved and won (legally and socially) since the passing of the act and the people that attended and spoke, were indicative of that. Society, the media, academia and legislative frameworks had progressed and evolved, however, also clear was that more was necessary, and that although overt racism was fading, as a consequence of the passing of the Act and attitude change in society, indirect racism remains, everyday racism has now evolved and correspondingly, the fight against new racisms need to continue. It was resoundingly suggested that interpretation of the Race Relations Act needed to be better in its application.

britac eventAs part of the conference, a public event on the evening of Thursday, 9 July, entitled Racial Discrimination and Criminal Justice in the EU, brought together a panel of scholars and practitioners dedicated to discussing how (and indeed if) the Race Relations Act had impacted specifically on policing and criminal justice. The intersections of race and criminal justice are all too often referred to in passing, rather than presented as the central question to be addressed, which is arguably myopic given the grossly disproportionate ways in which black and minority ethnic groups are policed and imprisoned in the UK. Hence it was apposite that experienced and esteemed panellists spoke directly to this issue and in as bold terms as the title of the event suggested.

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How and why did Sheku Bayoh die?

Sheku Bayoh, a 31-year-old local man, originally from Sierra Leone and a father of two, died in police custody in Kirkcaldy on 3 May.

The circumstances of his death –  he was clamped in leg shackles and handcuffs when taken unconscious to hospital, until medics insisted these restraints be removed – have caused outrage, as has the way that he and his family have been treated by the local police, the Scottish Police Federation and a seemingly indifferent Scottish government.

Hundreds gathered outside Kirkcaldy police station on the day of his funeral for two minutes’ silence. Many want to know the truth. What is not disputed is that Bayoh was left unconscious after a pavement encounter with at first four, and then a further five, police officers, who used batons, CS gas and pepper spray, responding to reports that he had a knife.

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New Book: Jim Crow’s Last Stand by Thomas Aiello

New from LSU Press is Jim Crow’s Last Stand: Nonunanimous Criminal Jury Verdicts in Louisiana, by Thomas Aiello, an associate professor of history at Valdosta State University.

The nonunanimous jury-verdict law originally allowed a guilty verdict with only nine juror votes, out of twelve, funneling many of those convicted into the state’s burgeoning convict lease system. The law remained on the books well after convict leasing ended. Historian Thomas Aiello describes the origins of the statute in Bourbon Louisiana—a period when white Democrats sought to redeem their state after Reconstruction—its survival through the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. Louisiana (1972), which narrowly validated the state’s criminal conviction policy.  Spanning over a hundred years of Louisiana law and history, Jim Crow’s Last Stand investigates the ways in which legal policies and patterns of incarceration contribute to a new form of racial inequality.


Racial Discrimination and Criminal Justice in the EU – Panel, 9th July 2015

Racial Discrimination and Criminal Justice in the EU

Thursday 9 July 2015, 6-7.30pm
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH

Chaired by: Aidan O’Neill QC, Matrix Chambers

Join a panel of leading voices from politics, academia and legal practice to as they explore issues at the nexus of race, EU law and policing.

Ben Bowling is Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Kings College London.
Momodou Jallow is the Vice-President for the European Network Against Racism in Europe.
Dr Alpa Parmar is Departmental Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Oxford.
Leslie Thomas QC is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers.

Details and registration at:

The suicide of Kaleif Browder

Kaleif Browder, the then-teenager who was accused of stealing a backpack and held on NY’s Rikers Island for three years before the prosecution dropped the charges, killed himself yesterday. A heartbreaking end to an incredibly tragic story.

The violence that he suffered while an inmate can be seen viewed here:

Violence inside Rikers Prison

WARNING: The video contains images that may be distressing to viewers.

Black girls are also victims of violent policing

That nearly 60 percent of Black people in the USA cannot swim is directly attributable to decades of segregated pool facilities . Continued segregation in communities is the backdrop of the troubling and traumatizing incident that occurred in a Dallas suburb over the weekend, when 19-year-old Tatiana Rose threw a pool party and invited several friends to use the community pool in her neighborhood. Many of those friends were Black, and many of those Black friends also live in the neighborhood. At some point, as Tatiana says in a video interview, two white adult women began yelling at her and her friends to “go back where they came from,” “back to section 8 housing,” and calling them “black fuckers.” When a 14-year-old girl responded, the women further ridiculed her, prompting Tatiana to tell the adults that the girl was 14 and their comments were inappropriate. According to Tatiana’s account, the white women then approached her; one “hit her in the face” and the other began participating in the attack.

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Prince pens protest song in memory of Freddie Gray

The protest song was recorded April 30th at Paisley Park Studios with Prince playing all the instruments. The surprisingly upbeat music on “Baltimore” is paired with contemplative lyrics that find Prince singing, “Nobody got in nobody’s way / So I guess you could say it was a good day / At least a little better than the day in Baltimore.” The Purple Rain star is even more pointed in his second verse as he sings, “Does anybody hear us pray? / For Michael Brown or Freddie Gray / Peace is more than the absence of war.”

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