Joint enterprise - a discussion with Dr. Matthew Dyson

Julia Salasky

posted on 30 Jul 2015

Dr. Matthew Dyson of the University of Cambridge sat down with CrowdJustice (over Skype!) to discuss the concept of joint enterprise - and indeed how difficult it can be to define it. Matthew gives a fantastic primer on a complex topic, and yet a topic that touches on basics of social and criminal justice.

An example of murder

Take his example of Vernon, Peter and Sam.

In the first example, Sam is present when Peter kills Vernon in a drunken fight.

In the second example, Sam and Peter plan to steal Vernon’s phone. Vernon runs after Peter, who punches Vernon in the face. Vernon hits his head and later dies. Sam is a mile away.

Dr. Dyson explains how the law has developed in such a way that in both cases, Sam may be convicted of murder, which comes with a mandatory life sentence.

He goes on to discuss some of the issues the doctrine of joint enterprise raises – legally, philosophically and as a matter of policy.

When should you be liable for what someone else does? And that is a hard question which we don’t have a clear answer to…

The fear, repeatedly echoed by judges and barristers, is that there are more people in prison called “murderers” who had no role in the the actual killing. They only had some minor assistance or encouragement. And yet the title they get is murderer. And indeed they get the mandatory life sentence as well. And even worse than that, those people don’t understand how and why they’re being called a murderer. So, it’s very difficult for them to understand and potentially therefore to reform and be rehabilitated … And of course as noted in the Peter and Sam example I gave earlier, the grounds for liability can be very slim.

Hear more

Listen to the full interview (which took place over Skype) here:

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