Nina Grahame KC secures unanimous acquittal in joint enterprise murder trial

9 January 2023

Nina Grahame KC, head of our Criminal Defence and Appeals team, has secured the unanimous acquittal of her client on counts of murder and manslaughter at Liverpool Crown Court.

The prosecution alleged that the defendant was a secondary party to the murder of Michael Toohey, an 18-year-old male, in an internet café near London Road in Liverpool in April 2022. In the context of an ongoing feud between rival drug dealers, the prosecution alleged that the defendants pursued and cornered the deceased before inflicting 32 separate injuries by beating, stamping and asphyxiation. It was alleged that four males actually carried out the fatal assault as principals, and these four were each unanimously convicted of murder. The young defendant who had alerted the assailants to the whereabouts of the deceased was also convicted of murder. However, this defendant was alleged to have travelled to the scene with one of the assailants where he, with others, encouraged and/or assisted as a joint but secondary party to the assault.

This case again highlighted issues that repeatedly raise concerns about the doctrine of joint enterprise. Here, the defendant could not be proved to have said anything or done any specific overt act by way of encouragement or assistance. However, his presence at the scene for a very short time (alleged to be part of a supporting “mob”) was not accidental and arguably amounted to more than “mere presence”. In a highly detailed analysis of the evidence, including extensive CCTV, cell site and phone data, the defence first proved that the defendant had been inside the café for a far shorter period than had originally been alleged. The defence then successfully argued that the prosecution had failed to prove that the defendant had assisted or encouraged the principals in any way and/or that he had shared their intention.

Nina Grahame KC led Charlotte Noddings of Exchange Chambers, Leeds, instructed by Kenton Sargeant of ABR Solicitors.

The Liverpool Echo has reported the case herereaders may find some of the details in the report upsetting.

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