Where two or more people act together to commit a criminal offence, each is responsible and each is guilty.
In carrying out a criminal offence, different people may play different roles. Each is guilty provided he shared the intention to commit the offence and did something to bring it about.
There does not have to be a formal agreement to commit the crime. The agreement can arise on the spur of the moment.
A good example is a burglary. Consider the situation where three men agree to commit a burglary, the first drives the men to the property, the second acts as a lookout and the third physically enters the property and takes the goods. Each is guilty because they have acted together as they share an intention to commit the offence, and each has acted to bring about the result – the property is burgled.
It would unfair if only the third man (who entered the property) were charged with burglary.
Many feel that joint enterprise is grossly unfair. It is used particularly viciously in gang violence cases. I heard of a recent example where a group of three lads were charged with manslaughter. Two of the lads had kicked the victim, who later died of his injuries. The third was at least 15 feet away when the kicks were delivered. The prosecution said as the third man was making his way towards the victim and the two men who were kicking him, he shared the intention and was lending his support. They said this was sufficient to satisfy the ‘did something to being the offence about’ requirement. He was not convicted of manslaughter. But it doesn’t seem right, does it?