ANGUS Sinclair faces becoming the first person in Scotland to be tried twice for the same crime – the World’s End murders of Helen Scott and Christine Eadie.
The Crown Office intends to use the recently passed double jeopardy law for the first time to launch a fresh prosecution against Sinclair.
The 67-year-old previously stood trial for the murders in 2007, but was cleared after the judge ruled the prosecution did not have sufficient
The 1977 double murder of two 17-year-old girls has become one of Scotland’s most high-profile and controversial cases.
The collapse of the case five years ago triggered a public row between the then Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini and Scotland’s most senior judge at the time, Lord Hamilton.
It was also one of the reasons behind the Scottish Government passing legislation that would enable people to be tried more than once for the same crime, in exceptional circumstances.
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill referred to the World’s End case when the new law came into force in November last year.
However, it is not yet the certain that the case will be tried afresh.
The first challenge the Crown Office faces is convincing a judge that it has the required new and compelling evidence which “substantially strengthens” the case.
The test of evidence to bring a double jeopardy prosecution is tougher than the test prosecutors themselves apply to cases being brought for the first time.
It must also be based on evidence that was not available to prosecutors at the time of the
previous trial. If the Crown
Office is successful, Sinclair is likely to be brought back to court some time in 2014.
For the families of Miss Scott and Miss Eadie, the development offers new hope of justice after 35 years.
Morain Scott, Helen’s father, said: “I’m pleased it’s come up again and we’ll just have to wait and see how it all goes.
“It’s the first step on the ladder. We’re now in the hands of the judges and the legal profession.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take – I don’t think anybody knows. Nothing’s going to happen overnight. I’m just wanting justice for the girls.”
The case was named the World’s End murders after the pub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, where the teenagers had been seen drinking in on 15 October, 1977.
Drinkers recalled the girls talking to two men before they left at closing time at 11pm.
John Rafferty, a former policeman, saw the pair outside the pub and said they were then
approached by two men.
Miss Eadie’s naked body was found the next day in East Lothian by hillwalkers. Miss Scott’s body, which was partially clothed, was discovered in a field a few miles away.
The murder investigation was one of the biggest Lothian and Borders had ever carried out, involving hundreds of officers, 13,000 suspects and the interviewing of every soldier in Scotland.
Former Lothian and Borders Deputy Chief Constable Tom Wood, who was in overall command of the case until he retired in 2005, said yesterday’s announcement by the Crown
Office was important progress.
“It’s great news,” he said. “It’s a step forward, a major step forward.
“It’s hugely important for Scottish justice, this case. What we are trying to do here is put justice first, and not the law. This is about two young girls, Christine and Helen, who were brutally killed.
“This is our justice system. That is what we feel strongly about. It does not belong to lawyers and judges. It belongs to us.”
He said he was pleased yesterday’s development had come in the lifetime of Miss Scott’s father.
“My big concern was – I knew this would happen, eventually, but I was worried it would be after the lifetime of Morain Scott.
“I feel very strongly that I would like to see justice done in his lifetime.”
The Crown Office has been scrutinising the World’s End case since March. It was the first to be looked at after the new double jeopardy legislation was passed last year.
In a statement, the Crown Office said: “The Lord Advocate has today applied to the High Court for authority under the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Act 2011 to set aside the acquittal of Angus Sinclair and prosecute him again for the murders of Christine Eadie and Helen Scott.
“This is the first application to be made under the double jeopardy legislation.
“As proceedings are now live in terms of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, it would not be appropriate for the Crown to comment further.”
Double jeopardy law has been used in England and Wales before, most notably in the successful prosecution of Gary Dobson, alongside David Norris, for the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in London in 1993.
Norris was being tried for the first time, but Dobson had been cleared in court previously, which would have stopped him from facing trial again under former laws.