Wigan mum’s hope of law change after debate

Jan Cunliffe
Jan Cunliffe

A Wigan mum who leads a national campaign group is hoping for changes to a controversial law after an MP’s debate in Parliament.

The House of Commons heard judges’ application of joint enterprise could have led to thousands of people being wrongfully convicted.

Jordan Cunliffe

Jordan Cunliffe

Other news: Police probe on death of Wigan man still continuing

A motion calling on the Government to review the law and bring forward legislation to clarify how it should be used in court.

That has given fresh hope to former Pemberton resident Jan Cunliffe, who founded Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (Jengba) to campaign for reform.

The backbench debate expressed deep concern about the law, which allows more than one person to be convicted of a crime if they played a role in it or could have foreseen it and did nothing to prevent it happening.

Garry Newlove

Garry Newlove

Ms Cunliffe started the group in 2010 after her son Jordan was jailed for murder following the death of Warrington dad Garry Newlove, a crime she has always denied he had any part in.

Following the debate, Ms Cunliffe said: “It was fantastic to see so many MPs passionately saying what Jengba has been saying for the past eight years.

“Every MP commended Jengba for the hard work we have done and they are now fighting for us.

“We’ve got some heavy-duty leading politicians behind us now and they were saying the wrongs that have been done need to be put right.

“They said if people are in prison who did not murder anyone then their convictions should be quashed and they should be released.”

MPs discussed reform of joint enterprise as no appeals have been successful in the two years since the Supreme Court said the law was not being correctly used, despite dozens of cases being put forward.

The motion from the debate has gathered cross-party support, with Labour MP Lucy Powell opening the debate and colleagues including David Lammy speaking in support but Conservatives including Bob Neill and Andrew Mitchell expressing considerable reservations about joint enterprise.

Ms Cunliffe hopes that this will be enough for ministers to act.

She said: “The Government has said it is keeping an open mind on it but they’ve said that for seven years, so from their point of view nothing has changed.

“The general feeling is that because of the motion passing the fight continues and will get stronger.

“The pressure is there now, coming from MPs themselves. It feels like another successful day for Jengba.”

Starting the debate, Ms Powell described joint enterprise as “potentially one of the biggest and most widespread miscarriages of justice ever to face our justice system”.

MPs also said they were alarmed by the law’s disproportionate use against young men from ethnic minority backgrounds, saying police associated them too easily with gangs and violent crime.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna told the backbenchers that 37 per cent of those serving long sentences for joint enterprise are black.

However, supporters of the law have said that joint enterprise prevents juries having to let groups of people go free when they blame each other or refuse to say who struck the fatal blow.