28/11/2011

Double Jeopardy Tried Again

The Scottish Government has announced changes to the double 'jeopardy rule' that will see those acquitted of crimes tried again in a broader range of circumstances.

The 800-year-old principle prevents a person being tried twice for the same offence, but now the Scottish Government have announced a 'modernised' version of the rule following a consultation with Scotland's legal profession, the public, victims and their families last year.

Significantly, the changes will be applied retrospectively, so those acquitted of crimes will be liable to double jeopardy retrials from Monday if certain fresh evidence or circumstances arise.

Retrials can now take place in "very serious" cases where, after an acquittal, compelling new evidence emerges; where the original trial was 'tainted' by intimidation; or where, after an acquittal, evidence becomes available that the acquitted person has admitted committing the offence.

Announcing the changes, Minister for Justice Kenny MacAskill said: "This is a victory for common sense. In this day and age, people shouldn't be able to walk free from court and subsequently boast with impunity about their guilt. If new evidence emerges which shows the original ruling was fundamentally flawed, it should be possible to have a second trial. And trials, which are tainted by threats or corruption, should be re-run.

"Prosecutors should not have their hands tied, and these legislative changes will ensure that in such cases there will be no escape from justice. We have acted swiftly in the interests of Scottish justice, victims and their families and this is a historic day for Scots law."

Monday's changes came after formal steps by Ministers to make the legislative adjustments required before a Bill was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament earlier this year.

The Scottish Government said the rule will not be removed and was a fundamental principle of Scots law providing "essential protection" against the state repeatedly pursuing an individual for the same act.

However, from today, exceptions will now apply.

(DW)

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