Petition for mercy for Asher Johnson raises concern for BAME people affected by joint enterprise law
Felicity Gerry QC has drafted a petition for mercy asking the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice the Rt. Hon Robert Buckland QC to recommend to Her Majesty the Queen the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to grant a conditional Pardon for Asher Johnson to enable his immediate release. Asher is currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 16.5 years for a murder that he did not physically commit. The petition states that Asher has been the subject of a catalogue of events that have led to serious injustice and that resolving the injustices in Asher’s case helps to rectify the errors created by the judicial system which significantly affect Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people, as highlighted by The Lammy Review.
The two interlinked grounds are as follows:
Ground 1 – the imposition of a mandatory life sentence in Asher’s case is contrary to the public interest, particularly where the law has miscarried in relation to trials and appeals.
Ground 2 – the imposition of a mandatory life sentence in Asher’s case prevented prevented the judge from imposing a sentence consistent with Asher’s actual culpability.
The petition argues that recognising the injustices in Asher’s case and removing the ‘life’ element in his case, in such a way as to enable his immediate release, is a step towards publicly addressing systemic issues that affect BAME people in the criminal justice system, whilst still reflecting the concern of the public over knife crime.
The Royal Prerogative of Mercy is a constitutional safeguard against mistakes, a form of natural justice: to act fairly, in good faith and without bias or a power to rescue a person from the cruelty of unmerited punishment or to forgive. The petition was filed on Asher’s behalf by Dean Kingham of Swain and Co Solicitors. The petition can be read here.
Carmelite Chambers is committed to the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion and supports the statement by the Bar Council on equal treatment after the George Floyd killing. The Bar Council statement can be read here
A petition on similar grounds for Alex Henry, also affected by the errors of law in joint enterprise, has been referred by the MOJ to the CCRC. You can read the petition for Alex here.