Making Sense of 'Joint Enterprise' for Murder: Legal Legitimacy or Instrumental Acquiescence?

Susie Hulley, Ben Crewe, Serena Wright

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The legal doctrine of ‘joint enterprise’ has been heavily criticised for lacking legitimacy, primarily linked to distributive (in)justice. This paper draws on the narratives of ‘joint enterprise prisoners’ serving long life sentences for murder, to address such concerns and extend the discussion to questions of ‘legal legitimacy’. Such prisoners who were early in their sentences explicitly rejected the legal legitimacy of joint enterprise, while those at a later stage reported ‘accepting’ their conviction and demonstrated ‘consent’ by engaging with their sentence. We argue that, rather than representing normative acceptance of the legal legitimacy of joint enterprise over time, this acceptance is a form of instrumental acquiescence associated with ‘dull compulsion’ (Carrabine 2004: 180), ‘coping acceptance’ (Schinkel 2014:72) and personal meaning making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1328–1346
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number6
Early online date24 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Joint enterprise
  • legal legitimacy
  • legitimacy
  • meaning making

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