Justice for Jordan Towers
Having travelled across the dual carriage way the three friends are now in the Grindon area of Sunderland. Jordan was walking quite a few steps ahead of his friends when he crossed paths with a male who was unknown to him. Jordan said that there was a conversation between himself and the male in which the male offered to sell him smack (heroin). Jordan commented to the male that 'people who take stuff like that want a smack in the lips', Jordan then continued to walk past the unknown male. Jordan had got quite a few feet past the unknown male when he heard someone shout 'ere man what ya deing'. He then turned and saw the unknown male running away clutching his side. He did not see what happened to cause this but when he questioned his friend he was told that the male had got a slap for picking on someone a year or so back.
The three then travelled to a garage where upon being refused service Jordan left the forecourt. He crossed the road and sat on a low wall waiting for his friends. They were by this time heading to their home estate so Jordan could go home.
Arrest and Charges
On the afternoon of Saturday 19th of May police went to Jordan's house looking for him. Jordan was not there but after a brief telephone conversation with his mother Jordan agreed to return home and hand himself over to the custody of the police to help with their enquiries. Upon returning home Jordan was arrested on suspicion of murder.
There was several lengthy interviews conducted in which Jordan steadfastly denied any involvement in the violence that had occurred. He also denied that he knew anyone was in possession of a weapon of any kind. He told police he had witnessed a fight between his two friends and an unknown male that had come out of a house. He did not see the male being stabbed nor did he know the male had been stabbed. He said he himself stood back throughout the altercation, he also admitted that he had thrown a rock into the street. He admitted this before the police had any evidence against him. He said he had thrown the rock to stop them fighting, he told the police that the unknown male was 'knacking his two friends'.
Jordan then went onto confess that he himself had a knife. He then lead police to a knife that had been discarded in a patch of grass some distance away from the murder scene. He told police to test the knife and they would see it had not been used. Again this confession was made before police had any evidence against Jordan.
During interviews the police told Jordan that he was there as an important witness. They were repeating their questioning of who did the stabbing. Jordan could not answer this question as he did not know, he was too far away and did not see. All the police were telling Jordan was that they knew it was not him, they even mentioned as much in the other accused's interviews. However in Jordan's final interview when the police realise Jordan cannot tell them who did the stabbing they take on the view of 'ah well you did throw a rock' .
During interview Jordan was then arrested for a second stabbing. This was the stabbing of Jamie Thompson in the Grindon area of Sunderland. Jordan admitted having the initial conversation with an unknown male in the Grindon area now known to be Jamie Thompson. He told police that the initial conversation had been about heroin but the police alleged that the conversation was about a cigarette. Jordan told police that after he had walked past the man he turned around and saw the man running away clutching his side though he did not see what happened to cause this. Jamie later ID'd one of the co-accused as the person who stabbed him.
During interview, Tony Hawkes blamed Jordan and Dean Curtis. Dean Curtis blamed Jordan and Tony Hawkes and obviously Jordan blamed Dean and Tony. Tony having been picked out in an ID parade by Jamie Thompson went on to admit that he was the stabber in the second incident.
On Monday 21st of May 2007 Jordan Towers, Dean Curtis and Tony Hawkes were jointly charged with the murder of Kevin Johnson. Tony Hawkes was alone charged with section 18, serious wounding with intent, in relation to the stabbing of Jamie Thompson. On Tuesday 22nd of May the three were remanded to the same young offenders institute.
Problems during arrest
After Jordan handed himself over to the police he was taken in to custody and in due course was interviewed. Police had asked Jordan's sister if she would act as a legal guardian during interview, as she was the only family member who hadn't spoke to Jordan for several days prior to his arrest. His sister agreed to this and was told to wait until the police came and collected her for the interview. During her wait the police came to see her and asked her to give a statement just to clarify that she had not seen nor heard from Jordan prior to the incident. She did what the police asked of her and upon signing the statement she was subsequently told that she could no longer act as an appropriate adult as she was now part of the evidence, and could be called to give evidence if any charges were brought. The only thing that was said in the statement was that his sister had not seen or spoke to him since the Wednesday before the incident. When his sister challenged the police over the this they said it did not matter, anyone who gives a statement is part of the evidence and Jordan would now have to get a social worker to act as an appropriate adult. Police would later go on to use her statement as evidence to have his bail application refused. Jordan was held in custody for more than 48 hours without being allowed contact with his family. After 48 hours passed, after Jordan's family begging police on numerous occasions, Jordan was allowed a very short phone call to his mum just to let her know he was all right.
During interview Jordan was scared, he had been arrested for a murder that he knew he had not been involved in. The police were telling him that it did not matter if he was standing back because blood splatter can travel quite some distance and could have landed on his clothing. The police then went onto say to him that if there was blood on his clothing and they could not prove who the stabber was he would also go down for murder. Jordan was scared by this so he told police that he himself had a knife and then he lead police to a knife secreted in a grassy area. This knife had in fact been dumped there a couple of days prior to the incident. Jordan knew the knife would be there because it was he himself who had dumped it there.
Prior to his conviction Jordan did gardening work for pocket money. Several days prior to the incident Jordan was strimming gardens and he had a small kitchen knife to cut the strimmer wire. Upon seeing police he dumped the knife because he thought he would be stopped and searched, as he often was. Jordan was about to start a college course along with an apprenticeship and did not want to get into any trouble for carrying the knife. After leading police to the knife he went onto say to them 'go on test the knife, you will see it hasn't been used' because he knew without doubt that the knife had been no where near the scene of the incident.
A complaint was lodged with IPCC in relation to the incident with Jordan's sisters statement and the way in which Jordan admitted being in possession of the knife. After investigating the complaint the IPCC said that the police no longer ask family members to act as appropriate adults involving such serious offences, and in relation to the knife they said it did not matter that Jordan admitted to being in possession of a knife because the knife was not used in the commission of the offence so it was not used as evidence to charge him. The knife was produced as evidence against Jordan in court.
So Jordan would later go on to retract his confession of him being in possession of a knife, however Jordan was advised not to give evidence during trial so his new statement was never produced in court.
On Sunday 20th of May Jordan's mum received a phone call from Jordan's solicitor, this was the first contact the family had had with the solicitor. Jordan's mum was told that Jordan would be charged with affray and would probably be out by morning. On Monday 21st of May Jordan phoned his mum, he was screaming down the phone that he had been charged with murder. Jordan's mum could hear a female police officer in the background saying to Jordan 'come on stand up son, you're sliding down the wall'. Jordan could not even stand he was that distraught. Jordan's mum was in shock as she had been told by several police officers during Jordan's arrest that Jordan was 'just in the wrong place at the wrong time'.
There are a couple of things worthy of mention. First - Jordan has been stopped and searched by police on numerous occasions and has never been found with anything illegal in his possession, nor has anyone in his company. Jordan was actually stopped and searched several days prior to the incident where police recorded that Jordan had a garden strimmer on his person. Second - Jordan commented during interview that the only reason he has ever carried a knife was for gardening work, in order to cut the strimmer wire.
Trial and evidence
Several days before the start of the trial Jordan and Dean Curtis were summoned to Newcastle Crown Court. There they were both charged with the wounding of Jamie Thompson. It is believed that the charges were added against Jordan to secure a conviction of joint enterprise. Police had no more evidence against Jordan than they did when he was first arrested, why weren't the charges brought against him then? Jordan's defence team told Jordan that they would not oppose the charge being added to the indictment but would instead lodge with the trial Judge a submission of no case to answer on the grounds of there being no evidence to support the charge. Tony Hawkes admitted stabbing Jamie Thompson albeit after he was ID'd as the stabber, however he did not say that he sent Jordan over to distract Jamie in order for him to do this.
On the 8th of October 2007 the trial started, an application was put before the judge requesting him to declare no case to answer for the charge of wounding in the case against Jordan. The Judge subsequently denied the application saying that the initial conversation between Jordan and Jamie could be used as evidence against Jordan. The Judge accepted the prosecution argument that Jordan could have asked Jamie for a cigarette in order to distract him so the others could attack him.
Evidence during trial
There were two eye witnesses to the first incident, the fist witness was Adele Brett. Adele was Kevin Johnson's fiancé. Adele told the court that after being out for a drink with Kevin to a local pub she and Kevin then returned home. She said that they had a silly argument over a packet of crisps and she went to bed in a mood. Kevin later followed her upstairs and into the bedroom. She said she then heard loud voices outside in the street and Kevin went over to the bedroom window to see what was causing the noise. She was asked if the noise was coming from one place or was it travelling and she told the court that it was travelling down the street.
She said Kevin went quickly downstairs. She told the court that he did not tell her but she knew where he was going. She was asked if he exchanged words from the bedroom window her answer was no. She then told the court she went to the window but could not see anything so she followed Kevin downstairs. When she went out onto the street she said she saw Kevin fighting with two males. They were all throwing punches but she did not know if any of them were connecting. She told the court that there was another male about 25-30 foot away standing in the road. She did not see this male come into contact with Kevin, she did not take much notice of that male.
Adele told the court that she shouted she was phoning the police and went in the house to get her phone. When she returned to the street the three males had left and Kevin was walking back towards her. She told the court that Kevin lifted up his top and said something about being stabbed, he then walked towards a low wall. He fell face first over the wall and it was then her neighbour Marsha Newby came on the scene.
Marsha Newby was the second eye witness. She told the court that she was in her bedroom and heard shouting, she turned her TV down so she could hear. She told the court that she heard Kevin shouting from his bedroom window, he said 'what do I have to get in my window for'. She then went to her window and she saw an unknown male standing in the street, he was looking up at Kevin's bedroom window. She said the male was beckoning Kevin to come out, he was doing this with both hands whilst walking backwards. She sees Kevin come to his gate and walk towards the unknown male. She opened her window and leaned out to get a better view, it is then she saw a second male. He too was beckoning with both hands and walking backwards.
They disappear from her sight so she moves to a landing window, it is then she saw a third male standing in the road. He was standing further back, the other two were in close contact to Kevin. The two closer to Kevin suddenly start attacking Kevin, she saw male 2 use a back handed motion with his left hand toward Kevin's chest. Kevin went down but quickly recovered. She thought that male had a knife but did not see one. The fight then breaks up and the third male threw a rock toward Kevin, it was aimed at his legs but missed. The three then ran off laughing and she then went onto the street where she saw Kevin had collapsed. It was put to Marsha that male 3 had stood back throughout the fight and did not join in, she agreed with this. It was put to Marsha that the rock was thrown several feet away from Kevin and she replied 'it was still tossed wasn't it'.
Jordan denies the rock was thrown at Kevin. Marsha Newby herself is no law abiding citizen. She herself was in the Sunderland Echo not long after the trial for assaulting a police officer.
In relation to count 2 wounding with intent, Jamie Thompson gave evidence. He said he was going to the garage where he was meant to meet up with his girlfriend. He said he was walking up a road in the Grindon area when he saw 3 youths on the other side of the road. He said one of the youths was walking ahead of the other two. He told the court that the youth walking ahead crossed the road and asked him for a cigarette, he said he did not have any and walked past the boy. He told the court he was then stopped by the other two youths who had by now crossed the road. He said that one of them asked him if he was called Jamie and the other one was acting aggressive. He said he confirmed he was called Jamie and he said he was then stabbed in the chest.
Jamie attended an ID parade and picked Tony Hawkes out as the person who stabbed him. He could not ID any other person that was there. It was put to Jamie that male 1 was not aggressive nor did he stop him in his path at any time, Jamie agreed with this. It was put to Jamie he had past male 1 before he was stabbed by the other male, Jamie also agreed with this. Jamie said male 1 stood back, male 2 stabbed him and male 3 encouraged the stabbing. It was put to Jamie that the initial conversation with the first youth involved heroin to which he replied 'I didn't say that, I don't want to answer, I didn't say that.
It is fair to say that Jordan did not see the stabbing of either victim. In relation to the murder it was clear that Jordan was standing some distance away and the evidence established that when Jordan left the scene the victim was on his feet walking back towards his home. In relation to the stabbing of Jamie Thompson, Jordan told police that he had seen Jamie running away clutching his side. This proves that Jordan did not know Jamie had been stabbed because Jamie was stabbed in the chest, why would he run away clutching his side? Jamie did not shout out that he had been stabbed, Jamie told the court that Jordan was stood several metres back so it is very probable that Jordan could not have known.
When the prosecution had stated his case another application for no case to answer was submitted on behalf of Jordan. Again the judge refused this submission stating what he had previously stated. Jordan has always claimed that the initial conversation with Jamie involved smack, it has since come to light that Jamie Thompson was at that time being prescribed methadone. There is no way that Jordan could have known that Jamie Thompson was dependant on heroin. This evidence could have strongly supported Jordan's case. It would have cast doubt on the prosecution's allegations that Jordan only stopped Jamie and asked him for a cigarette in order to cause a distraction.
What is said above is the only alleged evidence of Jordan's participation in relation to murder and wounding. The prosecution alleged that Jordan shared the same intent as the main perpetrator/s and so was equally guilty of the crime. There were other witnesses throughout the trial but none relevant to Jordan's case. All other evidence was based on the other two co-accused after Jordan had left them. Not one person alleged that Jordan was involved in either incident. No DNA evidence was found on any of Jordan's clothing, he has maintained the same story throughout with exception to the knife. Jordan's story matched with that of the prosecution witnesses.
Tony Hawkes and Dean Curtis changed their stories during trial. They blamed each other and finally confirmed that Jordan played no part in the murder, however Dean Curtis told the court, in relation to count 2 the wounding of Jamie Thompson, that it was Jordan who was stood next to Tony Hawkes and encouraged the stabbing. He claimed that the only thing he did was sit on a wall. Jamie Thompson confirmed to the court that the one who he had the initial conversation with was the one who stood back. Both co-accused fiercely denied that Jordan had a knife, both saying that Jordan is not like that. Jordan was advised not to give evidence during trial and there were a lot of serious problems with his defence. There are a lot of things about this that cannot be disclosed until after Jordan has had a fair appeal hearing.
Jordan's defence case was that he was not part of any joint enterprise. He denied throughout any involvement in either incident and this was later proven beyond doubt. The prosecution alleged that the throwing of the rock was an act of participation because of the evidence of Marsha Newby in which she said the rock was aimed for Kevin. So it was up to the jury to decide if she was telling the truth. This was a spontaneous fight, Jordan could have in no way known what was going to happen.
The law of joint enterprise clearly states that the Crown recognises that a person who joins in with the violence after the fatal blow cannot be found guilty of murder or manslaughter because he was not party to the violence in which the fatal blow occurred. With this in mind Jordan's defence team told the court that all evidence had established that when the rock left Jordan's hands the fatal blow had already occurred and so he could not be guilty of the charge against him.
There is a transcript of the conversation between Jordan's defence team and the trial Judge in which the Judge agrees that the rock was thrown after the fatal blow had occurred and that Jordan cannot be held liable for murder or manslaughter.
The law of joint enterprise also states that there is no obligation on a person to leave the scene where spontaneous violence erupts as long as that person stands by and does nothing to further the commission of the offence. Jordan did nothing to further the commission of the offence, in fact the commission of the offence had already occurred by the time of Jordan's alleged participation.
Again the law also states that you have to join in with the violence, and then you have to join in with knowledge or intent. Jordan did not join in the fight and so should not be held responsible for someone else's actions.
Jordan's defence case was based on the English and Powell case law. This case law states that the jury should be asked to consider the fundamental difference between the use of a knife and the throwing of the rock. Asking the jury to consider such a thing is crucial in a secondary party - joint enterprise case. The judge never directed the jury to consider fundamental difference and it is thought that if they were asked to consider it their verdict could have been one of not guilty against Jordan.
Sentence and appeal
On the 23rd of November 2007 Jordan Towers then aged 16 years old was sentenced to be detained at her majesty's pleasure with a minimum term of 13 years. Dean Curtis then aged 19 years old was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term set at 17 years and Tony Hawkes then aged 17 years old was detained at her majesty's pleasure with a minimum term of 16 years.
During his sentence remarks the Judge said 'it is common ground that you Jordan took no part in the stabbing'. Jordan has to admit to being a murderer in order to show remorse to secure a parole date. How can he admit to doing something that a Judge has clearly stated, he did not do.
An application for leave to appeal against conviction was submitted on behalf of Jordan. The application was subsequently refused by a single Judge. The application was then submitted for hearing in front of the full court which sat at Leeds Crown Court. Again Jordan was refused leave to appeal, and it must be said he was refused for all the wrong reasons. All the reasons given for refusal did not match with what the evidence during trial had established. The whole hearing lasted 10 minutes, it was supposed to last a couple of hours.
An application has since been lodged with the CCRC. The case is currently under review and Jordan has it on good authority that a decision will be made around April or May. The only chance Jordan has of ever being released from prison is either winning an appeal or a change in the law if none of these happen life will mean life in Jordan's case.
About the length of sentence
A life sentence is a harsh punishment for someone who didn't commit the crime, yet despite the evidence in court and the judge deeming that "it was clear that you Jordan did not take part in the killing", a guilty verdict on a murder charge was returned.
This story is intended to raise awareness to the biggest miscarriage of justice in Sunderland in recent years, which saw, albeit a foolish 16 year old Jordan in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. Although mischievous, this boy is not a murderer, and despite an unsuccessful appeal attempt all who love him remains confident this charge will be over turned. Jordan was convicted on the basis of joint enterprise, the 300 year old law that can convict innocent bystanders who do not actully touch the victim. This law sets the standard of proof way to low. You will probably think that if you are proven innocent during trial then you won't be convicted, think again - this law finds you guilty by association.
Joint enterprise is a law used when the police cannot prove who the perpetrator of the offence was. So for example you are walking down the street with a friends or relative.Your friends/relative gets into a fight, your at the scene watching what is happening obviously thinking that it has nothing to do with you, it's not your fight. The fight ends everyone walks away. The next day you are arrested on the suspicion of murder, you find out it wasn't just a fight you witnessed, the person who your friend/relative fought with was fatally stabbed. You tell the police ' I was there but it wasn't me'. You feel confident because you played no part, you didn't know the person was going to be or had been stabbed.
You are then charged jointly with murder! You know you are innocent but it will go to trial. The prosecution will allege that you were part of a common purpose or plan, you were there for encouragement, you are equally guilty. The prosecution will ask if you knew whether your 'accomplice' had a knife, you will of course deny this, you thought it was just a fight. The prosecution will then allege that you should have known what was in your 'accomplice' pockets because you are best friends or relatives etc etc. The prosecution will allege you shared the same intent as the murderer, he will go on to trash your defence with his wild speculations during his closing speech. His whole speech will be intent on damaging your character because he has no solid evidence against you, he barely mentions your co-accused, he doesn't have to, the evidence presented in court has secured his first conviction. He will save his closing speech all for you, attacking your character and making sure the jury learn that you are no scared little chicken sitting in the back of class to afraid to speak with your school teacher.
But the jury won't take too much persuading, after all the standard of proof is set frightfully low in joint enterprise law. Your life has been place in the hands of 12 people who don't know one end of the law from the other. It takes a person 10 years to qualify as a barrister and yet a jury of 12 people with no law experience are expected to understand such complex laws like joint enterprise in 3-4 weeks. The jury will go on to convict you because of one or two things. 1. 'There's no smoke without fire' the prosecution has done his job by attacking your character with totally unwarranted speculations, or 2. They just don't understand the complex law of joint enterprise or worse, they can't be bothered to work it out - after all they have sat through a rather lengthy trial. Conviction number 2, good day for the prosecution.
Ok so now you think, ' I'll appeal, I know I am innocent'. You will then be told that you can't appeal on the basis of your innocence. Why? Because jury's don't get it wrong. The fight you will have on your hands to over turn your conviction will be way bigger than you can ever imagine. Why? Because the 'Justice System' don't like to admit they have made a mistake. You will still fight though there is nothing left for you to do apart from a sentence for a crime you haven't committed. Things will get a whole lot worse before they get even a smidgen better. The newspapers will print that you are a murderer, that you joined in with the fight. They will crush any chance of people believing you, you will feel trapped. Because you keep maintaining your innocence you will stand little chance of parole. Why? Because maintaining your innocence is not showing remorse therefore you are not rehabilitated because you are not sorry for a crime you did not commit.
Someone said to me not long ago that juries should be told how difficult it is to have a murder conviction over turned. Some Juries will more than likely go on to convict under the illusion that if they got it wrong a higher court will correct their mistakes. This is wrong, courts do not like to over turn convictions and admit their perfect system is wrong.
Other people are serving life sentence's because of simply using their mobile at the wrong time. Another is serving a life sentence for being a good Samaritan, unfortunately all he did was offer the wrong person a lift. Another person is serving life because he was asked to burn out a car for the insurance money, little did he know that the car had been used in a murder, and there you have it - another miscarriage of justice.
This is joint enterprise, I know you will probably not believe what you are reading but these things happen, this is real life. If you think Joint Enterprise will never affect you think again! Remember all you have to do is be in the wrong place at the wrong time or even innocently use your own mobile phone.
This law is unjust and is crying out for an amendment that will set the standard of proof extremely higher than what it is now. But don't worry I know you will be thinking this simply couldn't happen to you….. Could it?
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Justice for Jordan Towers