"Biggest case in criminal legal history for hundreds of years."
- Felicity Gerry QC
Killing The Law is a feature documentary filmed over a 5-year period about a flaw in the British justice system which campaigners argue has resulted in hundreds of families having their loved-ones wrongly convicted and given life-sentences. Under the rule in Common Law called "Joint Enterprise", a person may be found guilty for another person's crime. Critics of Joint Enterprise argue that the threshold for evidence is extremely low, especially for such serious crimes such as murder, and as a result Joint Enterprise is a 'lazy law'. Whilst the campaigners acknowledge that there has often been a tragic death at the heart of these cases, they say that the law hasn't allowed their children to be given a fair trial, and therefore true justice hasn't been served.
The law around Joint Enterprise
As part of Common Law, Joint Enterprise has evolved from case law set by judges. Therefore under law set by precedent, if they were involved with an accomplice in one offence, and they “foresaw” that the accomplice might go on intentionally to commit another, they could be found guilty of the second offence without having taken part in it.
Legal experts give the following example "If there was a fight between two groups of teenagers, and someone was killed, then one of the teenagers could be found guilty of murder if, without intending it himself, he realised that someone else in his group might intentionally kill one of their opponents. He might be a long way off, out of sight and unarmed when the killing took place, but if it could be proved that he had the requisite foresight when he took part in the fight, it would be enough to get a conviction and a life sentence."
Filmmaker Anton Califano started filming in 2011 after meeting the campaign group JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association). JENGbA was set up to fight against what they argued was an unjust law being used as a dragnet simply to charge as many people possible in crimes where more than one person was involved. Producer Milica Kastner has supported the campaign group since she met the coordinator Gloria Morrison in 2006.
JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association) was set up in 2010 by mothers whose children had been convicted under the Joint Enterprise rule, and believed there was something seriously wrong with the law. They met once a month to share their stories and try to support each other through difficult times.
After a 5-year fight, in October 2015, a team of lawyers and academics supported by the campaigners successfully brought an important appeal case known as "Jogee" to the UK Supreme Court. And in February 2016, after three months of deliberations, the UK Supreme Court announced that in fact that the law around Joint Enterprise had taken a 'wrong turn' since 1984, vindicating what the campaign group called JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association) had said all-along.
The law was amended, and in a subsequent re-trial a jury found "Jogee" not-guilty of murder under the new interpretation of the law. The jury instead found him guilty of manslaughter, and he remains in prison. Others who were convicted prior to the 2016 judgment are not automatically entitled to an appeal. On 31st October 2016 the Court of Appeal upheld the guilty verdicts on 13 separate joint enterprise appeals. And at present all of the 700+ prisoners JENGbA are representing are still behind bars, with little chance of winning an appeal.
Felicity Gerry CQ at the UK Supreme Court
Filmmaker Anton Califano started filming in 2011 after meeting the campaign group. The film's producer Milica Kastner has supported the campaign group since she met the coordinator Gloria Morrison in 2006.
Why the film is important
A fair justice system is an essential part of any modern democracy, and yet it would seem in many of the Joint Enterprise cases that proper justice has not been served. We believe that the wider public is now entitled to know the full story of how this has been allowed to happen. This is the first time this complex story has been told in a documentary film with such unique access to the people at the heart of the campaign. This film can help put public pressure on the decision-makers in the judiciary, and your support in helping us complete the film will be a key part in that process.
Finishing the film
We have got this far on our own, but we now need your support to help finish the film. We have a little bit more to film over the coming months, and want to get started on the edit so the film is ready for a festival launch in early 2017.
How the money will be spent
We need to cover our costs for completing the rest of the filming and the editing. We need to expand our team to include an editor and a composer and pay for expensive legal costs before releasing the film. Having spent five years filming, we have a lot of material to look through, and we need to work with an experienced documentary film editor in order for us to create the best film we can, so we can launch at a UK Film Festival in 2017.
We are now at a critical stage, as our filming comes to an end, we really want to start editing the film as soon as we can, so it gives us a chance to launch the film as soon as we can early next year. Without this funding, it will be much harder for us to find a way to complete the film, and it may mean many more years of suffering for all the families who have already waited so long for an answer.