R v Gnango

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R v Gnango [2012] 2 WLR 17

Joint Enterprise and Parasitic Accessory Liability

Facts

The defendant was a London teenager engaged in gang warfare. He had been in conflict with another person known as TC and in October 2007 took a gun and went to look for him. While out searching in a car park in New Cross, the defendant came under fire from a person known in the case as Bandana Man (suspected to be TC). The defendant returned fire. At that time Magda Pniewska, a 26 year old woman, was crossing the car park on her way home and was hit by a bullet from Bandana Man’s gun. She died. The so called Bandana Man was not apprehended and neither was TC (if it was a different person). The defendant was charged and convicted of murder under the joint enterprise rules.

Issue

While the doctrine of transferred malice made Bandana Man guilty of murder, the issue was whether the rules on joint enterprise could make the defendant equally guilty of Ms Pniewska’s murder, through an interaction between the principles of joint enterprise and transferred malice. In this case the situation was particularly complex since the two alleged accomplices were actively trying to kill one another. The question to answer for the Supreme Court was specifically whether joint enterprise could be applied in such a situation.

Held

It was held in this case that there is no impediment in the law on joint enterprise to treat two defendants as acting together even if they were engaged in attempting to harm or murder each other. It was still possible for a person to be a party to a crime even if he was the intended (or actual) victim. The defendant was therefore indeed guilty of murder.

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