Double jeopardy for the chop

Simon Corbell feature crop

SIMON Corbell says people acquitted of serious offences in cases where a trial has found to be tainted or fresh and compelling evidence has been found will be able to be retried under new laws introduced to the Legislative Assembly today.

“The Supreme Court Amendment Bill 2016 provides a range of safeguards to balance the rights of the accused person with the fact they are being tried again,” Simon said.

“The rule of double jeopardy provides that no-one may be tried or punished again for an offence for which they have already been convicted or acquitted. However, there are certain exceptional circumstances in which it is a grave injustice to not re-try a previously acquitted person – this Bill captures those circumstances and provides a way for a retrial to occur.

“The Bill provides for a person to be retried for serious offences where there is fresh and compelling evidence that has arisen since the original trial that points clearly to the person’s guilt. It also allows a person to be retried where the original trial was tainted, for example, by perjury or interference with a juror or witness.

“The ‘fresh and compelling evidence’ exception will only allow retrial for offences punishable by imprisonment for life.

“The ‘tainted trial’ exception will allow retrial for offences punishable by imprisonment for 15 years or more.

“The Bill provides for a number of safeguards including that the court must be satisfied it is in the interests of justice to order the retrial.

“Cases of fresh and compelling evidence or a tainted trial would be rare but where such evidence arises, it undermines the integrity and therefore the legitimacy of the acquittal.

“This, in turn, undermines the validity of the criminal justice system and public confidence in that system.

“The tainted trial provisions in the legislation will be able to operate in relation to past cases. Fresh and compelling evidence provisions will not be applied retrospectively and can only apply to future cases.

“In 2006, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to reform double jeopardy law in order to address concerns arising from the 2002 High Court decision in R v Carroll by allowing the prosecution of a person for an administration of justice offence (such as perjury) even where it would directly contradict an acquittal.

“Almost all Australian jurisdictions, the UK and New Zealand have adopted double jeopardy law reform in various formats.”

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