PROSECUTORS are examining whether to reopen a series of “double jeopardy” cases which could lead to some of Scotland’s most notorious unsolved murders being brought back to court.
The 800-year-old law of double jeopardy will be radically overhauled tomorrow, ending the rule which prevents an accused being tried twice for the same crime.
Now the Solicitor General for Scotland, Lesley Thomson, is to decide which cases could be retried, the Crown Office revealed last night.
Officials declined to specify which cases could be among those coming back to court, but they are likely to include the so-called “World’s End” murders of Christine Eadie and Helen Scott from 1977. Other cases believed to be at the top of the list include the prosecution and acquittal of Libyan al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah for the Lockerbie bombing and the 1992 murder of Amanda Duffy.
In the World’s End case – named after the Edinburgh pub in which the two girls were last seen alive – convicted killer Angus Sinclair was four years ago cleared of raping and murdering the Edinburgh teenagers after the judge upheld a defence argument of insufficient evidence. However, police and relatives remain convinced of his guilt.
The reform could also trigger fresh developments in the Lockerbie case, which remains active, amid speculation that Fhimah, who was found innocent of the atrocity, could be prosecuted once again.
Another case which has been raised as likely to be re-examined is the 1992 murder of Amanda Duffy. Francis Auld was charged with the murder but walked free after the jury returned a not-proven verdict.
The ancient law of double jeopardy will remain in place, as the principle of protecting individuals against the state pursuing them repeatedly is fundamental to Scots law.
But the reforms, which come into force tomorrow, will ensure that a second trial can take place where “compelling new evidence emerges to substantially strengthen the case against the accused”. A second trial may also be allowed to proceed where there is evidence that the first trial was “tainted”. An example might be where a witness was found to have been intimidated into supporting the accused.
Furthermore, if after acquittal the accused admits having committed the offence, the Crown Office will be permitted to have a second trial.
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said last night: “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.”
A Crown Office spokeswoman said: “The Solicitor General for Scotland, Lesley Thomson QC, has been asked by the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, to review and prioritise cases which may be prosecuted anew under the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill.”
She added: “It is too early to say which cases would be considered, nor would we speculate on how any particular cases will be dealt with under the change to the law of double jeopardy in Scotland.”