Grassroots organisation JENGbA which campaigns against joint enterprise sets up new office in Manchester

The group says the new facility will provide somewhere for relatives of those who it says have been unfairly charged or jailed to visit it.

A grassroots campaign group fighting against the controversial joint enterprise law has opened a new office in Manchester.

JENGbA, which stands for Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association, has moved into its new premises in the Old Trafford area of the city to add to the office it already has in London.

The group battles against joint enterprise and other legal approaches by which people can be charged and imprisoned as if they were the principal offender if they could be thought to have known a crime was going to take place and failed to prevent it..

JENGbA says this leads to people being put behind bars for crimes committed by others, in some cases just for knowing someone who carried out an offence or for being in the vicinity of criminal activity.

The organisation says it feels its work is much needed in the North West and the new office will provide a place for people who want to help their campaign work as well as the families of those affected by joint enterprise to see them.

What does JENGbA say about opening an office in Manchester?

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JENGbA says it has been given a warm welcome in the city by organisations concerned about what is happening in the criminal justice system who want to work alongside it.

The organisation’s founder Janet Cunliffe, who is from Wigan, said: “There’s a lot going on in Manchester at the moment and the north needs this office.

“We’ve made a lot of connections with different organisations in and around Manchester and people support us and wamnt to get involved with the work we do.

“If people get charged we want families to give us a call at the earliest convenience, before they go to trial. We can then explain how the system works.

“At the moment the majority of our cases come to us after they have been convicted, and it’s too late. We want people to come to us beforehand so we can help them and ensure they don’t get convicted of crimes they haven’t committed in the first place.

“We also needed somewhere we can meet with the movers and shakers, people who’ve got the power to make change and help us move forward.”

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Why was JENGbA set up and what does it do?

Janet began campaigning against joint enterprise after the law was used to jail her son Jordan Cunliffe over the killing of Warrington dad Garry Newlove in 2007, an offence Janet claims he had no part in.

JENGbA was set up to campaign against joint enterprise and was taken forward by relatives of people who were sent to prison using the ‘guilt by association’ law.

The group says joint enterprise is unfair, unjust and also disproportionately affects working-class people and defendants who are Black and ethnic minority.

In 2016 the Supreme Court found that joint enterprise had been wrongly used and Ameen Jogee, who had been convicted of murder, was permitted a retrial and found not guilty.

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However, Janet says that despite that apparent breakthrough people are still coming before the courts and being accused of crimes due to association rather than direct evidence that they were responsible.

In addition, she says people are still stuck in prison serving sentences having been convicted using joint enterprise before the Jogee case at the Supreme Court.

She said: “We got a victory in 2016 but the courts didn’t give us resolution to the years of injustice. They haven’t rectified the mistakes that were made or the damage that was done. We’re still fighting for that.

“Since the Supreme Court ruling we have found that nothing has changed. People are still being convicted, and very often in exactly the same way as previously. The language and the words have changed, but a rose by any other name is still a rose.

“It still seems to be the case that being at the scene is enough to convict someone, and we’ve always thought that mere presence at the scene wasn’t enough.

“The North West is feeling it too. The numbers of cases are not going down and currently 10 people seems to be the magic number. Previously four or five people in a group would be prosecuted but it’s now 10, and 10 people are getting convicted as well.”