The law allowing people to be convicted of murder under the controversial principle of ‘joint enterprise’, has been wrongly interpreted for 30 years, the Supreme Court ruled today. 

In R v Jogee (appellant) the Supreme Court ruled that judges took a ‘wrong turn’ in the 1980s in the way they interpreted the law, in a judgment which may allow many convicted under the principle to appeal their convictions.

In a unanimous decision, a panel of five Supreme Court justices said that ‘foresight’ is not the sole evidence of intent to assist or encourage. The law had meant defendants would be convicted if they could have foreseen that a murder or violent act was likely to take place.

The decision came after the Supreme Court considered the appeal of two men, Ameen Jogee and Ruddock, who had both been convicted of murder under the joint enterprise law.

Lawyers welcomed the ‘long-overdue’ review of the law, which they said could have a far-reaching impact.

Sandra Paul, criminal lawyer at Kingsley Napley LLP, said: ‘The ripples from today’s decision will transform the fairness of future trials and potentially the whole lives of those who would otherwise have been caught in the joint enterprise trap. Guilt by association fails to provide justice for those accused or victims of crime.’

Maria Theodoulou, partner at Stokoe Partnership Solicitors said: ‘It is an outrage that it has taken our courts over 30 years to correct this fundamental "error". This ruling will reverberate with those who have been convicted of joint enterprise offences but does not mean automatically mean that they can appeal their convictions and have the justice they deserve.'

Sophie Walker, director of the Centre for Criminal Appeals, said the judgment offers lifelines to those serving sentences as a result of the ‘disproportionate and ill-used doctrine’.

She added: ‘There is further to go to ensure that joint enterprise doctrine is properly contained, and we look forward to future litigation or a review of the law as it currently stands that achieves this.’

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: ‘The application of the doctrine of joint enterprise has been perceived to cause unfairness in a number of cases. We welcome the clarification of the law that the Supreme Court has provided in this significant decision, and we are sure that our members practising in this area of law will carefully consider the affect of this decision.’

Watch the decision here: