Here you can see questions that our readers have asked, and the answers that we have provided. Some are specifically legal, e.g. relating to a particular case or principle, others are more general, e.g. asking for an explanation or clarification of an issue or particular term.
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9 November 2012
Q: I read about this case in the news. It was a pub fight between two groups of football supporters (red and blue). One of the blue lads was glassed and suffered really serious injuries. All of the lads from the red side were charged with the glassing. Why, when only one of them glassed him?
A: The reason is a principle called joint enterprise, sometimes called joint responsibility.
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.
Turning to your example, it may be that the CPS took the view that the ‘red’ group were acting with a common intention to commit the offence on the victim. It would not be necessary that the ‘red’ group intended or agreed that the victim would be glassed, merely that he was to suffer injuries of the type he did in fact receive.
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?
8 November 2012
Q: My brother is up for burglary. This would be his third. I’ve heard of the three strike rule but I don’t know how it works – can you explain it? I know you get a third off for pleading guilty – is it the same with a third strike burglary?
A: Offenders who are convicted of a third burglary of a dwelling (also referred to as a ‘domestic burglary’) will receive a minimum sentence of three years, where all three burglaries were committed after 30 November 1999. This minimum sentence applied in all cases, unless there are particular circumstances that would make it unjust to impose such a sentence.
A guilty plea at the first opportunity usually attracts a 1/3rd discount on the sentence imposed. In relation to a third burglary offence, the sentence may still be discounted but this discount must not reduce the sentence to below 80% of the statutory minimum (28.8 months, 124.8 weeks or 876 days).
The sentencing guideline for burglary can be found here