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Page last updated at 10:30 GMT, Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Lord Macdonald: Joint enterprise law 'a mess'


A group of MPs has warned that the law surrounding gang murder cases in England and Wales is now so complex that juries may find it impossible to understand how to reach the right verdict.

Prosecutors are to be given new guidance on so-called "joint enterprise" cases, in which all members of a gang can be charged with murder, not just the person who actually carried out the killing.

Lord Ken Macdonald, former director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, told the Today programme that greater clarity was needed on the law.

"The problem is, because we don't have a statute and we rely on case law, directions that judges give juries are sometimes not terribly clear," he said.

"We get conflicting decisions in the court of appeal and the law, frankly, over the last 10 or 15 years, it's been a bit of a mess in this area.

"So I think it would be worthwhile the government, hard as it might be, sitting down and trying to put all of this into a statute so that we all, all of us, everyone on all sides of the argument, and indeed people who may be charged with offences themselves, know exactly what the law is and where we stand."

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