The UK Supreme Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Thursday that a law on “joint enterprise” has been misinterpreted for 30 years, opening the door for many convicted murderers to appeal their convictions. Under the former interpretation of the law, a person could be convicted of murder without committing the murder himself if he acted in conjunction with the killer and could have foreseen the killer’s actions. The judges ruled that this foresight standard is not, on its own, a sufficient test. President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger stated [Guardian report] that the correct position is that, “foresight of what the principal might do is evidence from which the jury may infer that he intended to assist or encourage to do so, but it is for the jury to decide on the whole evidence of whether he had the necessary intent.” The ruling was related to two different joint enterprise cases, in which both men’s murder convictions have now been overturned. It may also open the door for many more prisoners to appeal their own convictions.
This issue marks one of many significant cases the UK high court has decided recently. Earlier this month the UK Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in favor of a lesbian woman seeking the return of her IVF-born daughter to the UK from Pakistan, giving her the right to fight for custody. In November the high court rejected [JURIST report] a challenge to an immigration rule requiring foreign spouses of UK citizens to speak English before relocating to the UK. Also that month the court began hearings in the case of Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who claims the British government assisted in his 2004 rendition by US forces.