Commission refers the joint enterprise murder conviction of Laura Mitchell to the Court of Appeal

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the joint enterprise murder conviction of Laura Mitchell to the Court of Appeal.

Laura Mitchell was tried for murder and violent disorder on the basis of joint enterprise at Bradford Crown Court in September 2007.

She pleaded not guilty but was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term 13½ years, and to a concurrent sentence of three-and-a-half years for violent disorder.

Laura Mitchell, Michael Hall, Henry Ballantyne, and Jason Fawthrop were tried together as secondary parties to the murder of Andrew Ayres who died after a fight outside a pub on 28 January 2007.

Laura Mitchell, Michael Hall, Henry Ballantyne were convicted and Jason Fawthrop was acquitted. Another man, Carl Holmes, admitted to being the principal and pleaded guilty to murder.

Ms Mitchell sought leave to appeal against her conviction. Leave was refused by the full court in February 2009.

Ms Mitchell applied to the CCRC for a review of her case in January 2014.

Two specific developments in the law relating to joint enterprise took place during the Commission’s review of this case.

The first, on 18 February 2016, was the publication of the Supreme Court judgment in R v Jogee, Ruddock v The Queen [2016] UKSC 8, [2016] 2 WLR 681. The judgment made significant changes to the law in relation to secondary parties in joint enterprise cases.

The second, later in 2016, was the Court of Appeal’s consideration of applications (see note one below) for leave to appeal on “Jogee” type points (i.e. points related to the change in joint enterprise arising from the case of Jogee and Ruddock). The Court of Appeal’s judgment in that case, R v Johnson and others [2016] EWCA Crim 1613, was handed down on 31 October 2016.

Having reviewed Ms Mitchell’s case in detail, and in light of recent developments in the law, the Commission has decided to refer the case for appeal because it considers there is real possibility that the Court of Appeal will find that it would be a substantial injustice to maintain Ms Mitchell’s conviction and will quash it as unsafe.

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 of the Supreme Court in R v Jogee, Ruddock v The Queen [2016] UKSC 8, [2016] 2 WLR 681, the scope of which was further clarified by the Court of Appeal in R v Johnson and others [2016] EWCA Crim 1613.

Ms Mitchell was represented in her application to the CCRC by Mr Simon Natas, ITN Solicitors, 5 Stratford Office Village, 4 Romford Road, London, E15 4EA.

Note one – Ms Mitchell’s co-defendant, Michael Hall, applied to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal out of time, further to the ruling in Jogee. His application was one of the five cases dealt with by the Court in R-v-Johnson and others [2016] EWCA Crim 1613 in which applications for leave to appeal were refused.

This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 232 0906 or e-mail press@ccrc.gov.uk

Notes for editors

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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”.

5. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.

6. More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk The Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdate and on Facebook at