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Joint enterprise guidance published

20/12/2012

The Director of Public Prosecutions has today published guidance that explains how charging decisions are made following crimes involving two or more participants in what is known as joint enterprise.

Keir Starmer QC said: "This is a controversial and complicated area of the criminal law, so I want the public to understand how we take decisions to charge in these cases. This guidance for prosecutors explains the case law and sets out the key tests that we must apply to each case. What this guidance cannot do is change the law, which is a matter for Parliament and the courts.

"In particular, this guidance will assist prosecutors in deciding whether, and with what offence, suspects with minor roles in group assaults should be charged. Accidental presence at the scene of a crime or mere association with an offender is never enough to create liability - a suspect must assist or encourage the offence in some way. This is the fundamental distinction drawn by prosecutors and the courts in cases of joint enterprise, and our guidance makes this clear."

The guidelines make clear that the prosecution should only use association evidence if, when taken with the other evidence, it establishes that the suspect was knowingly assisting or encouraging the offending. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to consider alternative charges which do not require the use of the joint enterprise doctrine. If no alternative is available, the guidelines caution the prosecutor to weigh carefully the merits of proceeding with the more serious charge under the doctrine of joint enterprise. Each case will need to be considered on its own facts and on its own merits before a decision is made on prosecution.

Prosecutors take several factors into account when deciding which charges peripheral offenders should face and if a prosecution would be in the public interest, including:

  • The harm caused to the victim;
  • The extent of any premeditation;
  • The suspect's age or maturity; and
  • The proportionality of the possible sentence to the offending. 

This publication follows the House of Commons Justice Committee's Report on Joint Enterprise of January 2012. The report recommended the DPP issue this guidance, which has been published after a targeted consultation with criminal justice agencies, academics, the judiciary and campaigners.

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. The guidelines have been published on the CPS website. The summary of responses to the consultation is also available. 
  2. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  3. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  4. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Division, Special Crime and Counter Terrorism, and Organised Crime. In 2011-2012, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Department of Health (DoH) prosecution functions were transferred to the CPS. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  5. In 2010-2011 the CPS employed around 7,745 people and prosecuted 957,881 cases with 116,898 of these in the Crown Court, and the remaining 840,983 in the magistrates' courts. Of those we prosecuted, 93,106 defendants were convicted in the Crown Court and 727,491 in the magistrates' courts. In total 86% of cases prosecuted resulted in a conviction. Further information can be found on the CPS website.
  6. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.