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Jordan Cunliffe is a decade into a 12-year sentence in jail for a murder he did not commit, under a controversial law that sent the blind boy down at just 15-years-old.
Cunliffe, now 26, was arrested and charged with the murder of Garry Newlove in 2007. The 47-year-old father-of-three from Warrington was the victim of a fatal kick to the neck, after confronting a 15-strong group of vandals outside his family home.
You can watch Jordan’s mum, Jan, recount the events of that fateful night for UNILAD:
Jordan, who was 15 at the time of the attack, was later convicted at trial and sent to jail – alongside two older companions, Adam Swellings, then aged 19, from Crewe, and Stephen Sorton, then aged 17, from Orford – despite the fact the youngster, who’s registered blind, didn’t deliver a single blow to the deceased.
This is a story of loss and tragedy. An innocent man – a father and a husband – lost his life at the hands of a violent and swift 10-second beating, the killing kick delivered by Sorton. After falling into a coma, Newlove died two days later in hospital.
While the two circumstances are incomparable, Jordan also suffered a loss that night; the loss of his life as he knew it, and his freedom.
Jordan was convicted under the controversial joint enterprise law, which allows someone to be convicted of murder even if they did not inflict the fatal blow but witnessed the killing and did not prevent it.
But Jordan is registered blind with a severe degenerative eye condition called keratoconus, which distorts vision, so while he was present he could not even have witnessed the notorious murder.
On that basis, Janet Cunliffe has been campaigning to overturn her son’s conviction and see the Join Enterprise law ‘either abolished or amended so innocent people don’t go to prison’.
Speaking to UNILAD, Jan said her son’s disability was never considered, adding:
Joint enterprise says your presence at the scene is somehow a form of encouragement to those who are actually committing the violence.
You’d expect DNA and forensics and CCTV footage [would convict someone] but it’s not. It’s just what they say might be going on in your head at the time and what you may know or think.
Jan detailed her son’s lifelong sight impairment, and told UNILAD she believed his ‘preposterous’ sentence was particularly wrongful due to his disability.
As a blind person, ‘even if he was at the scene, he wouldn’t have been able to see what anyone else was doing’, so being convicted under the premise of witnessing a murder and doing nothing to prevent it feels like ‘persecution’ to his mother.
My son couldn’t be a witness for the prosecution because he couldn’t tell who’d done it or what had happened. He also couldn’t defend himself against the prosecution. He was the perfect target.
I think they hand-picked Jordan for that reason. He couldn’t give evidence to defend himself because he couldn’t see. He didn’t know where he was and he didn’t know who was stood next him [sic].
Jan said her life has been ‘destroyed’ by what she believes is her young son’s wrongful conviction at the hands of joint enterprise, which she dubs: “A common law for common people that has no common sense.”
The law, which dates back 300 years, was brought back by David Cameron’s Tory government, as part of a crackdown against ‘mob mentality’ and youth gang crimes.
The killing attracted vast media coverage; it emerged the youths had been drinking heavily and Newlove’s death was seen as evidence of what Cameron, then leader of the Conservative party in opposition, described as “broken Britain”.
The case is so incredibly unbelievable, it has even inspired fictional works like Jimmy McGovern’s film, Common, which he wrote after meeting Janet and hearing Jordan’s story.
McGovern was convinced the teenager is ‘totally innocent and should not be inside at all’.
You can watch Common‘s damning indictment of the law that locked away Jordan:
Jan is now an active member of Joint Enterprise Not Guilty By Association.
The organisation has helped over 800 families of allegedly wrongfully convicted citizens, and holds protests nationwide.
The group also supports those who claim they were wrongly convicted of murder or manslaughter.
The Commons Justice Committee called for an urgent review of joint enterprise laws in 2014 and suggested people who play a secondary role and do not encourage an attack should be charged with lesser offences.
Jan is now left wondering what sort of life her son will have once he is let out of prison, having live his entire adult life behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit.