The law is over 300 years old, and was originally introduced to discourage people from illegal duelling. However, it is now being widely used to prosecute individuals who happen to be ‘associated’ with a person who commits a crime, even if they were only marginally involved and had no prior knowledge of any intent to commit crime. The law operates on the presumption that everyone present at the scene of a crime must necessarily be aware of what other peoples’ actions are going to be, and that each bystander is therefore as culpable as the perpetrator.
Clearly, so far as working-class communities are concerned, this law is not fit for purpose and is leading to numerous and gross miscarriages of justice. This is why the campaigning organisation JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association) is aiming to raise £10,000 to help meet the costs of paying leading human-rights lawyers to analyse a number of different cases in which a miscarriage of justice has occurred.
We ask our readers to donate to this campaign what they can afford and to support JENGbA. This law could be used against any one of us, including if we are arrested on a demonstration, a protest or a picket line. We also suggest that people watch the excellent TV drama on this subject by Jimmy McGovern, Common, which was reviewed in Proletarian No 61. (August 2014).