Media Release: Society comments on Double Jeopardy legislation

THE Law Society of Scotland has today welcomed the passing of the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill, which puts the rule against Double Jeopardy into law, allowing some cases to be retried, but remains of the view that it would not be in the interest of justice to allow any exception to the rule to be retrospective.

MSPs today, Tuesday 22 March, voted to pass the Bill.

Says a spokesperson: “The Bill sets out the current common law rule against Double Jeopardy which prevents a person from being tried twice for the same offence but also stipulates certain incidences where there would be an exception to the rule, including where an acquittal is tainted by an offence against the course of justice, emergence of new evidence and subsequent admission of guilt.

“The Society’s Criminal Law Committee, suggested a number of amendments and gave written and oral evidence to the Justice Committee as the bill progressed through the Scottish Parliament. The Criminal Law Committee’s concerns that the new evidence rule should apply to serious crimes only, was taken into account at stage two.

“Ahead of today’s debate the Society stressed again its view that tainted acquittals and admissions made after an acquittal should be restricted to cases prosecuted under solemn procedure, dealing with more serious criminal cases, only. The Society also reiterated its view that any exception to the rule should not be retrospective.”

Mr Murray Macara, member of the Society’s Criminal Law Committee, said: “We welcome the passing of this Bill today. We expressed concerns about some aspects of the legislation so were pleased these were taken into account and the Bill was amended at Stage two to ensure the new evidence rule applied to only those cases prosecuted on indictment in the High Court. However, the Society also feels that an exception to the rule on the basis of a tainted acquittal or admission of guilt after an acquittal should be restricted to cases prosecuted under solemn procedure.”

Mr Macara added: “The Criminal Law Committee remains of the view that it would not be in the interests of justice to allow any exception to the principle of Double Jeopardy to be retrospective.”

ENDS 22 MARCH 2011

Notes to editors

Society gives oral evidence to Scottish Parliament Justice Committee:

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