22nd February 2016

One of the more curious aspects of the recent decision on Joint Enterprise was that it was related to two cases – one was an English case and the Supreme Court is the highest court for England. The other case however originated in Jamaica and was being heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, often simply referred to as the Privy Council for short.

The Privy Council itself was in the news last year around speculation over whether Jeremy Corbyn would join. The Judicial Committee is one of the Council’s standing committees and comprises the Justices of the Supreme Court as well as other Senior Judges from the UK and the Commonwealth as required.

Although this body shares a building and many Justices with the Supreme Court it has its own history and its own distinct functions. It originated as a court of Appeal for the former British Empire and retains a similar role for many parts of the British Commonwealth and Crown Dependencies as well as having some other judicial functions mainly relating to matters of religion and the Aristocracy (they recently heard a case in which a claimant sought to admit DNA evidence to prove he, rather than his second cousin, should inherit a Baronetcy).

When the common law took its ‘wrong turn’ in 1985 was in a case that originated in Hong Kong. The interpretation of the law in that case then found its way into English law and has been applied consistently for decades before last week’s Judgement. Although the authority of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is not binding on English Courts it is of persuasive authority as the history of the law of Joint Enterprise clearly shows.

I hope to blog again when Judgement is given in the Baronetcy case.

Blog by Gerry Scott, Criminal Solicitor