A wholly innocent boy?

Jordan Cunliffe

Jordan Cunliffe

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IT was a murder which shocked the country and the demands for retribution were loud and long.

Dad Garry Newlove had gone outside to remonstrate with a group of youths whom he feared were damaging his car and was battered to death just yards from his Warrington home.

The teens were all given hefty jail terms and, in the emotional heat of the trial and its aftermath there was little if no sympathy for which protagonists were the most or least culpable.

But among them was a 16-year-old boy called Jordan Cunliffe who never laid a finger on the victim.

His Wigan-born mum has spent the seven years since the tragedy campaigning for her son’s release, saying he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Jordan Cunliffe was found guilty under the law of “joint enterprise” the law under which associates of killers are guilty by being there and not trying to prevent the violence.

But Janet Cunliffe says that the judge and jury didn’t take into account the fact that the youngster has a degenerative eye condition which leaves him almost blind. The fatal attack only lasted a matter of seconds and so there was even less of a chance of his intervening, whether or not he would be afraid of his associates turning on him if he did.

Mrs Cunliffe, who hails from Pemberton, has however seen support for her cause grow in the intervening years.

She is a key member of Jengba – Joint Enterprise Not Guilty By Association - which has campaigned against “guilt by association” and it was this body’s work that caught the attention of award-winning writer Jimmy McGovern.

He has become a patron of Jengba and on Sunday a drama which draws heavily on the Newlove-Cunliffe case and others will be screened on BBC1.

Common, starring Daniel Mays, Susan Lynch and Nico Mirallegro tells the story of four young men who flee from the scene of a fatal stabbing.

Mrs Cunliffe said: “When we first approached Jimmy to tell him about the injustice of joint enterprise, our biggest hope was that he would listen to our stories and help us spread the word about our campaign. And he did.

“Jimmy met some of the families for in-depth interviews and attended the Jengba House of Commons meeting to see and hear the truth for himself.

“He also met with some victims’ families, because as you will know if you’ve ever watched one of his dramas, you never get a one-sided story from Jimmy McGovern.

“I’ve seen the drama and it couldn’t explain the situation better. There were several points in it where you think ‘that’s us’ and I am sure there will be a lot of people watching who say it’s them too.

“It’s a very emotional film and so balanced. You cry for the victim and you cry for the injustice. You shouldn’t take sides in situations like this. You cry for both.”

Mr McGovern said: “Jan told me her son Jordan’s story and it was one of a wholly innocent boy tried for, and convicted of, joint enterprise murder. A truly shocking miscarriage of justice.

“Jan, a brave, stoical woman, welled up when she was speaking – something she had not done before and has not done since. I welled up too. And from that moment on I knew I had to write a story about Joint Enterprise.”

Common is aired tommorrow (Sunday) at 9pm on BBC1. On Monday night there is a documentary on BBC1 at 10.30pm called Guilty by Association and Mrs Cunliffe said that there may also be a debate on the subject on next Tuesday’s Newsnight on BBC2 at 10.30pm.

The Wigan Evening Post is keen to hear readers’ views about joint enterprise after Common is screened. Email your views to newsroom@lancspublications.co.uk, tweet us @WigToday or join the debate on our Facebook page ...