1. Joint Enterprise and the Law of Imputed Negligence
2. Joint Enterprise and the Ongoing Controversy

What is a joint enterprise law definition? It refers to an activity that involves two or more people who work together. Most joint enterprise ventures are undertaken to generate a profit. The different types of ventures could include a partnership, a joint venture or any form of business enterprise which involves investment from more than one person. The people who invest in a venture work together, share equal management control and conduct the business as per a mutually agreed upon goal or purpose.

Joint Enterprise and the Law of Imputed Negligence

Joint enterprise is extremely relevant when it comes to the law of imputed negligence. When two or more people establish and engage in a common business venture or a joint enterprise and each party has equal control and right to direct and manage the conduct of other people involved in the venture with reference to any acts or omissions that end up causing an injury, the negligence of the responsible person is imputed to each of the other parties. [Sizemore v. Hall, 148 Kan. 233 (Kan. 1938)]

All joint enterprises are not joint ventures or partnerships even though the terms are often used interchangeably as if they were one and the same.

Joint Enterprise and the Ongoing Controversy

A joint enterprise is a doctrine in law that dates back several centuries. It was developed by the legal system to allow more than one person to be charged and convicted for the same crime. Each party will be considered guilty of a crime that was committed during the course of a joint enterprise if there is sufficient evidence to prove that they were working together. This is irrespective of the role they played when committing the crime.

Compared to the crime of conspiracy where the offense involves an agreement to commit a crime, all parties in a joint enterprise can be convicted of an actual offense such as murder. A person involved in a joint enterprise cannot be charged if they have a simple association or an accidental presence during a crime.

A joint enterprise may not be applicable if one group member deviates from a particular plan because any assistance that is provided must be done so with knowledge. For example, if a group of people mutually agree to vandalize a certain property but one member assaults a passer-by without the knowledge or consent of other group members, the principle of joint enterprise will not be applicable in such a situation.

According to the Supreme Court, the joint enterprise law has been misinterpreted for nearly 30 years. The doctrine of joint enterprise has always been controversial since a person may be held criminally liable for a crime that was committed by another person. The joint enterprise doctrine has become even more controversial today because of an increase in gang-related killings.

Recently, the younger population segment has been disproportionately affected by the doctrine of joint enterprise because of a rapid increase in violent crimes committed by youths. According to findings from a research project, 37.2 percent of people who are serving long-term sentences for offenses that fall under the joint enterprise doctrine are black. This is 11 times the proportion in the general population and nearly three times as many in the prison population.

Some well-known cases that involved the use of the joint enterprise law include:

  • The conviction of the killers of Stephen Lawrence who was the victim of a stabbing attack in South London in 1993.
  • The killing of Ben Kinsella, a schoolboy who was knifed in North London in 2008.

There have been other complaints as well. One of these complaints involves the Jordan Cunliffe who was convicted of murder under the joint enterprise doctrine for the role he played in the death of Garry Newlove in Warrington in 2007. However, Cunliffe was partially blind and his mother Janet believes that he was convicted mainly because he could not see where he was at the time the crime was committed.

A number of factors are taken into consideration by the prosecutors when determining if a certain crime falls under the joint enterprise charge. These factors include:

  • Age or maturity
  • The proportion of the actual offense to the possible sentence
  • The level of harm caused to the victim
  • Proof of premeditation

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