Scots' double jeopardy rule to be reviewed

A REVIEW of the "double jeopardy" rule in Scots law will take a major step forward today.

The Scottish Law Commission is publishing a discussion paper seeking views on whether the rule should be scrapped or amended.

The rule against double jeopardy prevents a person from being tried twice for the same crime.

It is therefore not possible to retry a person who has been acquitted of a crime, even if new evidence emerges in relation to the case or if it appears that the original trial was "tainted" in some way, such as by intimidation or bribery of jurors or witnesses.

The commission is seeking views on whether there should exceptions to the rule against double jeopardy. The move was initiated by the justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, following the collapse of the World's End double murder case.

Patrick Layden, QC, the lead commissioner on the project, said: "The rule that prevents a person from being tried twice for the same offence has been recognised in Scotland and across the world as a fundamental protection for the citizen against the state. But we should look at it carefully to see whether modern conditions justify exceptions to it."

The commission will put forward their recommendations later this year.

Last year the commission recommended that prosecutors should be allowed to challenge a judge's decision to halt a trial due to lack of evidence – as happened in the trial of Angus Sinclair, who had been accused of murdering 17-year-olds Christine Eadie and Helen Scott 30 years ago.