Dad of Sunderland murder victim defends joint enterprise law

John Johnson

John Johnson

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In the week his son would have turned 30, the father of a murder victim has spoken of the joint enterprise law which is under the spotlight again.

Emotionally-charged BBC drama Common, which followed a teenager who got caught up in a murder and charged under joint enterprise, was broadcast this week.

It is the same law which convicted Jordan Towers, from Ford Estate in Sunderland, when he was 16, and two others.

He was one of three teenagers found guilty of killing Kevin Johnson outside his home in Partick Road, Pennywell, in 2007.

Father-of-one Mr Johnson, 22, was stabbed to death and while London’s High Court heard that Towers did not inflict the fatal wound, he was convicted on the basis that the killing was a joint enterprise.

The law means someone can be charged if they encouraged, assisted or could have foreseen the crime – even if another person carried out the act.

Joint enterprise was a hot topic again in the wake of the Jimmy McGovern drama, which was screened on Sunday.

Kevin Johnson’s father, John, says he supports the law and the convictions of those who killed his son - who would have celebrated his birthday on Wednesday.

He said: “The law has been around since the 1700s or 1800s. It is a useful law to have if there is more than one person involved in a crime.

“If there are two, three, four, five of them at the scene, they all can get done.

“Prior to that, if they all denied it, they could all get away with it.”

Mr Johnson, 63, from Ryhope, has campaigned for life sentences to mean life for killers and took a petition with tens of thousands of signatures to 10 Downing Street.

Regarding his son’s murderers he said it was because there was a group that Kevin was killed, even if only one struck the killer blow.

He added: “If there had only been one of them, they would have just walked past Kevin’s house.”

Towers’ most recent appeal against his conviction was kicked out by three judges at London’s High Court in May 2012.

He is serving the rest of his life sentence in Frankland prison in Durham, with just under seven-and-a-half years left before he can apply for parole.

Jimmy McGovern – the writer behind Common based the script on real-life stories.

He talked to people who’d had their child imprisoned under the joint enterprise law and also looked at the emotional impact of the crime on the victim’s family, something which he says he needed to include.

He told the BBC: “You get carried away with injustice, injustice, injustice, but there is no greater injustice than to lose a person to a crime of violence.

“It is absolutely horrendous and everything else pales into insignificance when compared to that.

“Nevertheless, that greater injustice should not allow other injustices to be committed as well.

“Nobody wants to be soft on murder, but you shouldn’t be soft on injustice either.”