The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the joint enterprise murder conviction of Jordan Towers to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Towers was 16 years old when he was tried in October 2007 at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Crown Court for murder and for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. He and two co-defendants were tried on the basis of joint enterprise.
He pleaded not guilty but was convicted of both charges and sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure with a minimum custodial term of 13 years. The sentence reflected Mr Towers’ age at the time.
The offences for which Mr Towers and his co-defendants were convicted arose out of incidents on 19 May 2007 when Mr Kevin Johnson was fatally stabbed during an altercation outside his home in Sunderland. A few minutes later another man, Mr Jamie Thompson, was also stabbed during an altercation but his injuries were not life-threatening.
Mr Towers and two co-defendants stood trial together and were all convicted on the basis of joint enterprise for the murder of Mr Johnson and for the wounding with intent of Mr Thompson.
Mr Towers tried to appeal against his conviction but his application for leave to appeal was refused by the full court in July 2008.
Mr Towers applied to the CCRC in 2009 and 2013 but in spite of extensive consideration of the case, the Commission was unable to identify grounds on which it could refer the convictions for appeal.
Mr Towers applied again in 2015. In February 2016, while the case was under review at the Commission, the Supreme Court made its decision in the cases of R-v-Jogee; Ruddock v The Queen  UKSC 8 (Jogee) which changed the law in relation to joint enterprise convictions involving the liability of secondary parties.
Following this change in the law, Mr Towers’ representatives made new submissions to the Commission.
Having considered the case in light of Jogee, and of the subsequent Court of Appeal decision in the cases of R-v-Johnson & others  EWCA Crim 1613 (Johnson) the Commission has decided to refer Mr Towers’ murderconviction to the Court of Appeal because it considers there is real possibility that Court will quash the conviction.
The Commission’s referral is based on the change in the law in relation to the liability of secondary parties brought about by the judgment in Jogee and elaborated in Johnson, and on the basis that the Court of Appeal could conclude that to uphold Mr Towers’ conviction for murder would amount to a ‘substantial injustice’.
Mr Towers was represented in his application to the CCRC by Birnberg Pierce, 14 Inverness Place, London, NW1 7HJ.
This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 232 0906 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
1] The Commission is today referring the murder conviction only. The wounding with intent conviction remains under review for the time being.
Notes for editors
- The Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.
- There are currently 12 Commissioners who bring to the Commission considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.
- The Commission usually receives around 1,500 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Typically, around 3.5%, or one in 29, of all applications are referred to the appeal courts.
- The Commission considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal. Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.
- If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.
- More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found atwww.ccrc.gov.uk The Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdate and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/criminalcasesreview/