Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

Joint Enterprise

November 22nd, 2009

Picture the park entrance near your local run-down estate.  Outside, you see two stereotypical wastrels, hoods up, approach the entrance in conversation.  The grey hoodie wearer enters the park, whilst the blue hoodie wearer waits outside, nervously glancing around.  Minutes later, you hear a scream; the grey hoodie dashes out of the gate and runs off with the blue hoodie.  After running in to find the origin of the scream, in the distance you see a little old lady on the ground with a bloody wound to her neck.  The police arrive and ask you to describe the hoodies.  The paramedics pronounce the poor victim dead at the scene.

The police swiftly arrest Adam (grey hoodie) and Ben (blue hoodie).  What will happen to them? Firstly, should they share the same punishment?

It is more complicated than you might think, and like all the most interesting elements of criminal law, it depends on their mental state or their respective intentions.  There are three scenarios that could transpire in the police interview.

  1. Adam and Ben had never met before that day.  Adam found Ben waiting outside a corner shop and offered to pay him £20 if he stopped anyone coming into the park for 5 minutes.  Ben had no idea why he was doing this and doesn’t know what happened in the park.  He took his £20 and bought his girlfriend some flowers.
  2. Adam and Ben are both serious cocaine users and need money quickly.  They know Mrs. Miggins walks across the park on the way back from the post office, so they decide to rob her using a kitchen knife as a weapon.  Ben is less keen on the plan as they start to walk over and tries to back out.  Adam says Ben shouldn’t worry, that they won’t hurt Mrs. Miggins, and if it makes Ben happier, he can just be the lookout whilst Adam goes into the park.
  3. Adam and Ben are seeking entry to a local gang, and the entry ritual involves stabbing an innocent local and giving the purse or wallet of the victim as a tribute to the gang leader.  The gang leader, Carl, was watching from a car on the other side of the park.

This rather dark Sunday afternoon tale is intended to highlight the practical problems distinguishing between the legal concepts within secondary participation (the legal term for a group effort when comitting a crime).  It is currently relevant because the Crown Prosecution Service are trying to use the joint enterprise rules as a way of targeting gang violence, but it is quite a blunt instrument to use, as Ben might discover.  The BBC’s Panorama programme ‘Lethal Enterprise’  tomorrow evening on BBC One will be exploring this issue in more detail, so this post is intended to set the scene.

I will post an update to the Adam and Ben story later in the week.

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Garrow’s Law

November 17th, 2009

To compensate for my self- imposed BBC blackout, we rejoin the Corporation’s output with the continuing mini-series Garrow’s Law. Mr Garrow is probably doing more in his 18th century depictions of the profession than many of his 21st century counterparts. My pleasure at this series stems from the very engaging dramatisation of the actual Old Bailey records, which allows me to point towards the case reports we have seen performed.

Episode Two centred around the case of Renwick Williams in 1790. A quite a lot of dramatic licence finds its way into this episode, but the facts at least seem to be taken from this case report of the second trial. The debate about the appropriate charge can be found here. It seems worth noting that media hysteria attempting to second guess a court is alive and well, over two hundred years later.

Episode Three began with a Mr. Cole accused of rape, which the records show that Mr. Garrow unsuccessfully prosecuted, rather than successfully defended. The report really is worth reading, if only for the ending:

[Here the witness proceeded in a narration too indelicate for publication, which, however, did not amount to legal proof of the crime charged against the prisoner in the indictment.]


The series concludes next Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.

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Daily Little Law Links

November 10th, 2009
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Daily Little Law Links

November 6th, 2009

Welcome to the start of what seems to be a very damp weekend here in north London.

  • First, this report is a clue to what will form the next Cases That Changed Our World… Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Company.  Yes, I groaned too (for non-law readers, this is one of the first cases taught on a law degree course), but reading down I gained some insightful trivia.  I did not know that Mrs Carlill died in 1942, aged 96 of… irony, possibly.  I wonder if her family know how famous she is?
  • Staying with the BBC, another story about abuse of RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, or the ‘we-thought-1984-was-a-manual-for-goverment’ law, as I think of it) talks about The Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which I confess to never having heard of.  As their website seems to suggest they have heard five cases, perhaps that’s unsurprising.
  • More politics than law, but I did enjoy Guido gloating that the guy he got sacked ended up having to pay for Guido to travel down and frustrate him further because he served the papers.  I also think the Prime Minister under cross examination would be wonderful legal theatre.
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Daily Little Law Links

November 4th, 2009
  • Following on from yesterday’s prediction, the suspects in the Italian Rendition case were found guilty in absentia.
  • The Conservative Party’s proposed change to strike ballots needing to be a majority of eligible voters, not just of those that voted has some of the unions spooked  (, and probably for good reason as the actions I’ve been involved with probably wouldn’t have passed this test.*
  • Finally, the BBC get another thumbs up from me for The Cases That Changed Our World on Radio 4 this evening.  It discussed a case of two Quakers on trial in 1670 that had a unique kind of jury-tampering; the judge threatening to kill a member of the jury.   It was the first of four programmes.

I am studiously avoiding the Conservative announcement on Europe and a discussion about Parliamentary supremacy, as there is nothing little about it.  I think I’ll save myself the effort of dusting off Bradley until there are some signs that I am not my only reader.  I’ll leave it at referring both the BBC and Mr Cameron to Chapter 8, as I have the impression both could do with a refresher.

*Spotted on Luke’s Blog whose opinions I enjoy having a private grumble about most mornings.

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