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Reviewing the law of joint enterprise

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(Originally published by Contributoria)

Gloria Morrison had never heard of joint enterprise when her son’s best friend, Kenneth Alexander, was arrested following the murder of Michael Campbell in 2005. “I knew he hadn’t committed a murder…so I thought he was going to be fined. I didn’t actually attend court,” she says. Yet weeks later, to the disbelief of all who knew him, Kenneth was sentenced to life in prison.

How was it, Morrison wondered, that a 19-year-old man could be found guilty of murder despite everyone at the trial accepting he had not physically harmed anyone? After approaching his lawyers for answers a clearer picture began to emerge.

Alexander wasconvictedunder joint enterprise, a doctrine of common law used to convict entire groups of the same crime. If several people set out to commit a crime together, such as a robbery, and in the course of that crime someone is murdered, the entire group can be convicted of murder regardless of who dealt the fatal blow. All that ne…