Scrapping of Double Jeopardy law moves a step closer
A 800-year-old law in Scotland which prohibits suspects being tried for a crime more than once is a step closer to being abolished today, after a Holyrood committee backed the overall aims of the Double Jeopardy Bill.
The Bill, part of the Scottish Government's attempts to reform the justice system, would allow people the retrial of some cases where suspects have escaped punishment.
This includes those cases where the person acquitted later admits to committing the offence or where the original trial was "tainted."
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said there would be a public outcry if changes in the law did not allow retrials of old cases.
He argued for the inclusion of retrospective cases in legislation which will permit exceptions to Scotland's 800-year-old double jeopardy rule.
The view goes against opinions put forward by some lawyers, judges and human rights experts. They have suggested that allowing the new laws to apply to cases tried before the legislation was introduced could have implications on human rights.
The case of the World's End murders is frequently highlighted as showing the need for a law change that would allow a suspect to be tried twice for the same crime.
Three years ago convicted double killer Angus Sinclair, 62, was cleared of raping and murdering Christine Eadie and Helen Scott in 1977. The charges were thrown out after the judge upheld a defence argument of insufficient evidence.
Justice Committee convener Bill Aitken, a Tory MSP, said: "The rule against double jeopardy has long been an important principle of Scots law in protecting the citizen against unjust treatment from the state. The Justice Committee strongly supports enshrining this rule in statute.
"We also believe it is right to make a number of carefully limited exceptions to this rule. The committee supports the Bill in allowing those who may have escaped punishment in the past, in certain circumstances and with the appropriate safeguards, to face renewed prosecution for those crimes."
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