As a journalist I have written about social issues and international affairs for the Guardian, the Independent, New Internationalist, Huffington Post, Equal Times and the Big Issue in the North, among other titles. I now work at the University of Leeds as a qualified careers professional, helping international students fulfill their career ambitions
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Campaigners crowdfund fees for crucial Supreme Court intervention
A group of women campaigning against the law of joint
enterprise have successfully crowdfunded their legal fees for a critical
intervention in a forthcoming case at the Supreme Court.
Janet Cunliffe of JENGBA visiting her son Jordan prison
Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGBA) used the
pioneering website, Crowd Justice, to raise over £10,000 for an intervention in
the case of Ameen Hassan Jogee, whose appeal of his 2012 murder conviction will
be heard by the Supreme Court in October.
JENGBA’s lawyers will seek to use the intervention to argue
that the controversial joint enterprise doctrine has led to a number of
miscarriages of justice and the excessive criminalisation of secondary
participants in murder cases.
Janet Cunliffe, a co-founder of JENGBA whose son Jordan is also
appealing his conviction for the 2005 murder of Gary Newlove, said she hopes the
intervention will lead to the law being amended:
“This is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to go to
the Supreme Court with a valid argument. I think the Supreme Court will come
out in our favour and once the judges clarify how the law should be amended
then the government can act on that.”
Joint enterprise is a doctrine of common law under which a
person who is not directly implicated in a murder can nevertheless be convicted
as part of a group if it is proven they could have foreseen the killing taking
place. The law is designed to facilitate the prosecution of entire groups for murder,
regardless of who dealt the fatal blow.
However, critics argue it amounts to guilt by association
and last year a House of Commons Justice Select Committee inquiry called for an
“urgent review” into the doctrine, warning that it could lead to miscarriages
Despite the report’s warnings the use of joint enterprise in
murder prosecutions remains widespread. In July JENGBA penned a letter to Lord
Chancellor Michael Gove urging him to “place an immediate moratorium on the
Crown’s use of joint enterprise, until reform or preferably abolition occurs”.
The group’s successful crowdfunding campaign is one of the
first to be successfully funded since Crowd Justice was founded earlier this
year. Cunliffe hopes the venture will help raise money for other individuals
and campaigns who are struggling to afford the costs of accessing justice due
to legal aid cuts.
“I think it’s very
sad that people have to go to that extreme in order to get adequate legal
representation,” said Cunliffe, “But I also think it’s positive that people can
get the funding they need off their own back by using Crowd Justice.”
The website allows individuals and groups - who have the
backing of a lawyer but cannot afford legal fees - to pitch their cases to an
online community of backers. It was founded earlier this year as a social
venture by former UN lawyer, Julia Salasky, who hopes the scheme will help in
the quest to “democratise justice”:
“If you’re not a very wealthy individual it’s actually
extremely expensive to access the courts. There have been huge cuts in legal
aid and in some areas court fees have gone up over 600% over the last 12 months.
“We set up Crowd Justice to look at ways that people can
come together to overcome those financial barriers when there’s a court case
that affects their community or an issue that’s important for them.”
Earlier this year a report by Unite the Union and Goldsmiths
University of London estimated that the government’s £350million cuts to the
legal aid budget since 2013 have had “extremely negative impacts” on 623,000
people – the vast majority from disadvantaged sections of the population.
Salasky hopes Crowd Justice can be useful to some of these
people and is especially excited about JENGBA’s successful campaign which she
predicts could have a significant social impact:
“Often in legal cases you’re holding the government or
others to account which is a very powerful democratic privilege.
“In this case what is so exciting is that by going to the
Supreme Court they really have the opportunity to change the law. To be able to
crowdfund that and have all sorts of people feel they were part of that
historic moment is pretty powerful.”
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after graduating …
Over the past few years I have had the privilege of working as a freelance journalist, covering issues which I care about - from miscarriages of justice to disability rights - for numerous publications. I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience and have learned a great deal from researching social issues and interviewing fascinating people. Unfortunately, during the last few months I have been unable to write as much as I would have liked, owing to commitments related to a career transition.
Through my writing I have become increasingly interested in labour issues, including youth unemployment, graduate prospects, worker instability, the growth of freelancing and self-employment. This interest has led me to pursue a second career as a consultant, helping students in higher education to navigate the challenging and often confusing world of work as they plan their future careers.
(Originally published by the Big Issue in the North)
In 2008, 15-year-old Jordan Cunliffe was sentenced to life in prison for murder. Although the judge accepted he was blind and took no part in the violence that led to the victim's death, he was convicted under a controversial law known as joint enterprise. Mischa Wilmers speaks to his mother about the fight for justice and why her campaign for urgent legal reform is gathering momentum. Janet
Cunliffe is sitting on the living room sofa anxiously awaiting her son’s prison
call. “Jordan phones home every day at six,” she says, adding that he rarely talks
to the media and is unlikely to make an exception for me. Suddenly the phone
rings and she answers it. They chat for several minutes before she mentions that
a journalist wants to speak to him. It’s obvious he’s reluctant, but after some
persuasion she hands over the phone.
pleasantries and I ask what life is like in prison. “Boring. Every day is the
same,” he replies. Is…