Analysis: Plan to Scrap Double Jeopardy Law Has Provoked Civil Rights Protests
Bennetto, Jason, The Independent (London, England)
PLANS TO scrap the law of double jeopardy caused outrage among lawyers and civil rights campaigners when they were announced by David Blunkett.
But among the police the mood was of quiet satisfaction that the 800- year-old piece of legislation that prevents a person from being tried twice for the same crime was being repealed, allowing them a second chance to convict suspects they were sure had cheated justice.
Although the proposed changes, published in July in a Home Office White Paper, will only affect serious crimes, such as murder, manslaughter, rape, and armed robbery, this could result in about 35 cases being revisited each year.
In an attempt to ease fears over the erosion of civil rights, the Home Secretary has built in safeguards to the law change. These include allowing retrials only where "compelling" new evidence, such as DNA, has been discovered. Prosecutions would have to be approved personally by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Cases will have to go to the Court of Appeal - the second- highest court in the land - where the judges will be asked to quash an acquittal and order a retrial.
The White Paper is expected to be introduced as a Bill in November and should become law in England and Wales within six months.
Sir John Stevens, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, believes the Home Secretary has got the balance right. "The safeguards in relation to double jeopardy will address the problem for some people who think we, the police, will be on a fishing expedition and will not be putting all our efforts into the process of charging people because we know that we can have a second bite at the cherry."
Sir David Phillips, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers - who mounted an effective lobbying campaign for reform - praised the White Paper, saying it contained "some radical and strikingly simple ideas". But …
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Publication information: Article title: Analysis: Plan to Scrap Double Jeopardy Law Has Provoked Civil Rights Protests. Contributors: Bennetto, Jason - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: September 2, 2002. Page number: 2. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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