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R v ABCD [2010] EWCA Crim 1622

Joint Enterprise liability for murder

Facts

The defendants participated in an attack against a victim in the victim’s home. The attack was organised by an individual other than the ones who participated. The defendants did not use a weapon in the attack, instead beating the victim, who died as a result. On the facts it was not possible to determine which defendant carried out which part of the attack and the Crown argued the case as one of common enterprise. The judge’s direction to the jury stated that the appellant participated in the attack with an intent to cause less than really serious bodily harm, but realised that one of the other attackers may cause such really serious bodily harm, but continued anyway.

Issue

The issue in the case was whether and when liability for murder can attach to a defendant on the grounds of joint enterprise where it is not possible to determine their individual contribution to the crime and instead merely by virtue of their participation in a group endeavour. Further, the relevance of intention of the other defendants was at issue.

Held

The court observed that the defendant’s liability would rest on whether he continued in the group endeavour having realised that the eventual crime for which he is on trial may be committed while the endeavour is going on; for those purposes, it would not be relevant whether or not he actually wanted for the crime to occur. In the case of murder, the defendant would be guilty if he foresaw that another of the group would cause the victim’s death while having the intent to do so or to cause GBH. If this occurs, then the defendant has chosen to associate himself with action which will foreseeably end in murder and this amounts to secondary liability.

“The principle is that D2 is implicated in the guilt of D1 not only for the agreed crime A but for the further crime B which he foresaw D1 might commit in the course of A” (R v A, Hughes L.J. para 37).

However, the judge’s direction should have specified that the defendant could only be found guilty if another member of the party had actually inflicted gbh on the victim with intention – essentially, if another member of the party was guilty of murder. Since this was not made clear in the direction, the convictions were quashed. This deviated from some interpretation of R v Rahman [2008] UKHL 45, which treated it as discounting the importance of intention altogether.


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