Huynh v R [2013] HCA 6: Joint Criminal Enterprise

Wednesday 13 March 2013 @ 12.04 p.m. | Crime | Legal Research

Today the High Court unanimously dismissed three appeals from a decision of the Full Court of the Supreme Court of South Australia which upheld the appellants' convictions for murder in the case of Huynh v R [2013] HCA 6.

The Facts

The appellants were convicted of murder following a fight at an 18th birthday party in suburban Adelaide in which a young man was stabbed.  The appellants were part of a group that had descended on the party after a dispute between one of the appellants and others attending the party.

The appellants were convicted on the basis that they were participants in a joint criminal enterprise to kill or to cause really serious bodily harm to a person or persons at the party using a knife or similar bladed weapon.

The Lower Court's Decision

The appellants appealed against their convictions to the Full Court, arguing that their trials had miscarried because the trial judge had not told the jury that it was necessary for the prosecution to prove that each appellant had participated in the joint criminal enterprise.  The appellants also argued that their trial had miscarried because the trial judge had not addressed each appellant's case separately in his summing-up to the jury.

Huynh was granted special leave to appeal to the High Court, and the special leave applications of Duong and Sem were referred to an enlarged bench of the High Court to be heard at the same time as Huynh's case. The High Court granted Duong and Sem leave to appeal, but unanimously dismissed all three appeals.

The High Court's Decision

The High Court held that, although participation in furtherance of an agreement to kill or to cause really serious bodily harm to a person was an element that had to be proved against each appellant, the trial judge had not erred because the appellants' participation was not a live issue at their trial.  The appellants did not dispute that they were present when the crime was committed.  Their presence pursuant to the agreement constituted participation in the joint criminal enterprise.

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