News Analysis: Supreme Court Ruling Could Have Impact on High Profile Cases

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In August 2005, Thomas Devlin, a fifteen year old school boy, was stabbed to death near his house when he was at a local shop to buying sweets. There were two killers involved. However, the act of stabbing was physically done by one criminal while the other one helped in executing the crime.

Ms. Holloway, the mother of the murdered child, conducted a high-profile campaign to get both of the killers equally punished under the doctrine of ‘Joint Enterprise,’ and she was successful in her endeavors. According to the Criminal Law, criminals are categorized as offenders liable for their own actions but after the application of the Doctrine of the Joint Enterprise, everyone who had a role to play in the execution of crime is held responsible as a guilty offender. According to the judge, “conviction demonstrates that those who engage in violence willingly must take full responsibility, not just for what they do themselves, but for the actions of others that they go about with and with whom they act in concert.”

However, this case had serious ramifications on many other crimes and cases of similar nature. Many victims pleaded the court to use the law of ‘Joint Enterprise’ to punish all the members involved in crime whether their involvement was at a small or large scale.

As a matter of fact, Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland has been extremely cautious in the application of ‘Joint Enterprise’ because more often than not, crimes of severe nature involve extremely severe punishment.

Recently, due to ongoing debate for multiple years the Supreme Court came up with the conclusion that application of the ‘Joint Enterprise’ is differs from case to case depending on the nature of the crime. This statement made by the Supreme Court has opened up to as much as six hundred cases where the punished criminals are hoping to have a way around the law of ‘Joint Enterprise.’

Although, judge Lord Neuberger added that, ” The ruling did not automatically mean that all previous joint enterprise convictions were unsafe.”