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Court of Appeal refuses to re-open appeals for murder convictions based on new joint enterprise law

You may remember that in the March Edition of the Update, we reported the case R v Jogee, Ruddock v The Queen [2016] UKSC 8.  This case, which was decided in the Supreme Court, set aside murder convictions based on joint enterprise by overturning previous decisions.  It was ruled that the secondary party must intend to assist or encourage someone to commit the crime in order to secure a conviction.  Foresight is an insufficient test to convict a person of murder and it does not equate with intent.  However, where a conviction was arrived at through application of the then law, it could only be set aside by seeking exceptional leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal out of time.

As a result of this judgment, a number of individuals appealed to the Court of Appeal to re-open their appeals and have their convictions re-considered in light of the R v Jogee judgment.  On 25th October 2016, the Court of Appeal refused and held that the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is the proper avenue for making such an application.

The main question was whether the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal (NICA) had the power to reopen these appeals.  The Court distinguished these cases from R v Jogee, given that appeals had already been determined adversely to the applicants.  It concluded that it should not re-open such cases except only in very limited circumstances and that the appropriate recourse for these applicants is through the CCRC.  The Court of Appeal stated that,

there is no authority for the proposition that every time there is a judicial adjudication clarifying or interpreting the law in a particular manner which could have some bearing on previous and finally decided cases, such cases should be reopened or the decision set aside.  To do so would render a legal system uncertain, incoherent and dysfunctional.’

Summary of Judgment available here.

Criminal Law, Miscarriages of Justice