Changes to allow retrials of serious crimes

double jeopardy

SIMON Corbell says the double jeopardy rule could be altered to allow retrials in special circumstances under changes proposed in an information paper released today.

“Of the five proposals in the paper the government is considering three reforms,” Simon said.

“These reforms will allow retrials following an acquittal where there is fresh and compelling evidence, retrials following acquittal where there has been a tainted trial, and prosecution of acquitted people for administration of justice offences that call into question the acquittal.

“This will occur in very limited circumstances and only for the most serious of crimes, where the maximum sentence is life in prison.

“The proposals have been developed following extensive consultation with stakeholders over several years, including the Human Rights Commission, and I am very confident that any changes will meet the requirements of the ACT’s human rights legislation.”

The government does not support two proposals in the information paper:

  • allowing the prosecution to appeal against a ruling on the admissibility of evidence where the ruling substantially weakens the prosecution’s case; and
  • allowing the prosecution to appeal against directed acquittals on the basis of an error of law in any jury trial or an error of law in a judge-alone trial.

“Changes have been made to the double jeopardy rule nationally and internationally, making it timely for the ACT to examine the rule of double jeopardy and options for reform.”

Double jeopardy refers to the common law rule that no person should be retried for an alleged crime for which they have previously been acquitted. That is, they should not be placed in a position of ‘jeopardy’ a second time.

“In creating the new laws the government must balance the rights of the victim of crime and community safety against the rights of an offender and the strict operation of the double jeopardy rule.

“The government will ensure that adequate safeguards are in place to allow for potential injustice to be remedied in a small number of cases. The experience around Australia and overseas is that these laws are rarely called upon.

“I intend to introduce a Bill in the ACT Legislative Assembly in 2016 incorporating the proposed reform,” Mr Corbell said.

“These proposals have been developed following extensive consultation with stakeholders over several years.”

To view the information paper visit justice.act.gov.au.

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